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Mol Neurobiol. 2009 Apr;39(2):130-48. doi: 10.1007/s12035-009-8058-z. Epub 2009 Mar 3.

The molecular architecture of ribbon presynaptic terminals.

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Department of Neurobiology & Behavior, State Universtiy of New York, Stony Brook, NY 11794-5230, USA.


The primary receptor neurons of the auditory, vestibular, and visual systems encode a broad range of sensory information by modulating the tonic release of the neurotransmitter glutamate in response to graded changes in membrane potential. The output synapses of these neurons are marked by structures called synaptic ribbons, which tether a pool of releasable synaptic vesicles at the active zone where glutamate release occurs in response to calcium influx through L-type channels. Ribbons are composed primarily of the protein, RIBEYE, which is unique to ribbon synapses, but cytomatrix proteins that regulate the vesicle cycle in conventional terminals, such as Piccolo and Bassoon, also are found at ribbons. Conventional and ribbon terminals differ, however, in the size, molecular composition, and mobilization of their synaptic vesicle pools. Calcium-binding proteins and plasma membrane calcium pumps, together with endomembrane pumps and channels, play important roles in calcium handling at ribbon synapses. Taken together, emerging evidence suggests that several molecular and cellular specializations work in concert to support the sustained exocytosis of glutamate that is a hallmark of ribbon synapses. Consistent with its functional importance, abnormalities in a variety of functional aspects of the ribbon presynaptic terminal underlie several forms of auditory neuropathy and retinopathy.

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