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Neuron. 2012 Apr 26;74(2):277-84. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2012.02.020.

Regulation of presynaptic neurotransmission by macroautophagy.

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Department of Neuroscience, Columbia University Medical Campus, New York, NY 10013, USA.


mTOR is a regulator of cell growth and survival, protein synthesis-dependent synaptic plasticity, and autophagic degradation of cellular components. When triggered by mTOR inactivation, macroautophagy degrades long-lived proteins and organelles via sequestration into autophagic vacuoles. mTOR further regulates synaptic plasticity, and neurodegeneration occurs when macroautophagy is deficient. It is nevertheless unknown whether macroautophagy modulates presynaptic function. We find that the mTOR inhibitor rapamycin induces formation of autophagic vacuoles in prejunctional dopaminergic axons with associated decreased axonal profile volumes, synaptic vesicle numbers, and evoked dopamine release. Evoked dopamine secretion was enhanced and recovery was accelerated in transgenic mice in which macroautophagy deficiency was restricted to dopaminergic neurons; rapamycin failed to decrease evoked dopamine release in the striatum of these mice. Macroautophagy that follows mTOR inhibition in presynaptic terminals, therefore, rapidly alters presynaptic structure and neurotransmission.

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