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J Neurosci. 1998 Dec 15;18(24):10250-6.

NSF function in neurotransmitter release involves rearrangement of the SNARE complex downstream of synaptic vesicle docking.

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Department of Genetics, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195, USA.


The SNARE hypothesis has been proposed to explain both constitutive and regulated vesicular transport in eukaryotic cells, including release of neurotransmitter at synapses. According to this model, a vesicle targeting/docking complex consisting primarily of vesicle- and target-membrane proteins, known as SNAREs, serves as a receptor for the cytosolic N-ethylmaleimide-sensitive fusion protein (NSF). NSF-dependent hydrolysis of ATP disassembles the SNARE complex in a step postulated to initiate membrane fusion. While features of this model remain tenable, recent studies have challenged fundamental aspects of the SNARE hypothesis, indicating that further analysis of these components is needed to fully understand their roles in neurotransmitter release. We have addressed this issue by using the temperature-sensitive Drosophila NSF mutant comatose (comt) to study the function of NSF in neurotransmitter release in vivo. Synaptic electrophysiology and ultrastructure in comt mutants have recently defined a role for NSF after docking in the priming of synaptic vesicles for fast calcium-triggered fusion. Here we report that an SDS-resistant neural SNARE complex, composed of the SNARE polypeptides syntaxin, n-synaptobrevin, and SNAP-25, accumulates in comt mutants at restrictive temperature. Subcellular fractionation experiments indicate that these SNARE complexes are distributed predominantly in fractions containing plasma membrane and docked synaptic vesicles. Together with the electrophysiological and ultrastructural analyses of comt mutants, these results indicate that NSF functions to disassemble or otherwise rearrange a SNARE complex after vesicle docking and that this rearrangement is required to maintain the readily releasable pool of synaptic vesicles.

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