Send to

Choose Destination
Neuroscience. 2009 Jan 12;158(1):126-36. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2008.01.061. Epub 2008 Feb 15.

Zinc at glutamatergic synapses.

Author information

Laboratoire de Neurobiologie, CNRS UMR 8544, Ecole Normale Supérieure, 46 rue d'Ulm, 75005 Paris, France.


It has long been known that the mammalian forebrain contains a subset of glutamatergic neurons that sequester zinc in their synaptic vesicles. This zinc may be released into the synaptic cleft upon neuronal activity. Extracellular zinc has the potential to interact with and modulate many different synaptic targets, including glutamate receptors and transporters. Among these targets, NMDA receptors appear particularly interesting because certain NMDA receptor subtypes (those containing the NR2A subunit) contain allosteric sites exquisitely sensitive to extracellular zinc. The existence of these high-affinity zinc binding sites raises the possibility that zinc may act both in a phasic and tonic mode. Changes in zinc concentration and subcellular zinc distribution have also been described in several pathological conditions linked to glutamatergic transmission dysfunctions. However, despite intense investigation, the functional significance of vesicular zinc remains largely a mystery. In this review, we present the anatomy and the physiology of the glutamatergic zinc-containing synapse. Particular emphasis is put on the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying the putative roles of zinc as a messenger involved in excitatory synaptic transmission and plasticity. We also highlight the many controversial issues and unanswered questions. Finally, we present and compare two widely used zinc chelators, CaEDTA and tricine, and show why tricine should be preferred to CaEDTA when studying fast transient zinc elevations as may occur during synaptic activity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center