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Neuron. 2004 Mar 4;41(5):755-66.

Streamlined synaptic vesicle cycle in cone photoreceptor terminals.

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Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, Division of Neurobiology, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720 USA.


Cone photoreceptors tonically release neurotransmitter in the dark through a continuous cycle of exocytosis and endocytosis. Here, using the synaptic vesicle marker FM1-43, we elucidate specialized features of the vesicle cycle. Unlike retinal bipolar cell terminals, where stimulation triggers bulk membrane retrieval, cone terminals appear to exclusively endocytose small vesicles. These retain their integrity until exocytosis, without pooling their membranes in endosomes. Endocytosed vesicles rapidly disperse through the terminal and are reused with no apparent delay. Unlike other synapses where most vesicles are immobilized and held in reserve, only a small fraction (<15%) becomes immobilized in cones. Photobleaching experiments suggest that vesicles move by diffusion and not by molecular motors on the cytoskeleton and that vesicle movement is not rate limiting for release. The huge reservoir of vesicles that move rapidly throughout cone terminals and the lack of a reserve pool are unique features, providing cones with a steady supply for continuous release.

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