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Nature. 1998 Apr 2;392(6675):497-501.

Synaptic vesicles retain their identity through the endocytic cycle.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory, Salk Institute, La Jolla, California 92037, USA.


After fusion of synaptic vesicles with presynaptic membrane and secretion of the contents of the vesicles into the synaptic cleft (a process known as exocytosis), the vesicular membrane is retrieved by endocytosis (internalization) for re-use. Several issues regarding endocytosis at central synapses are unresolved, including the location of membrane retrieval (relative to the active zone, where exocytosis occurs), the time course of various endocytic steps, and the recycling path taken by newly endocytosed membranes. The classical model of synaptic-vesicle recycling, proposed by analogy to other cellular endocytic pathways, involves retrieval of the membrane, fusion of the membrane with endosome-like compartments and, finally, budding of new synaptic vesicles from endosomes, although the endosomal station may not be obligatory. Here we test the classical model by using the fluorescent membrane dye FM1-43 with quantitative fluorescence microscopy. We find that the amount of dye per vesicle taken up by endocytosis equals the amount of dye a vesicle releases on exocytosis; therefore, we conclude that the internalized vesicles do not, as the classical picture suggests, communicate with intermediate endosome-like compartments during the recycling process.

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