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PLoS One. 2014 Apr 18;9(4):e95130. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0095130. eCollection 2014.

SNARE zippering and synaptic strength.

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Department of Physiology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Synapses vary widely in the probability of neurotransmitter release. We tested the hypothesis that the zippered state of the trans-SNARE (Soluble N-ethylmaleimide-sensitive factor Attachment protein REceptor) complex determines initial release probability. We tested this hypothesis at phasic and tonic synapses which differ by 100-1000-fold in neurotransmitter release probability. We injected, presynaptically, three Clostridial neurotoxins which bind and cleave at different sites on VAMP to determine whether these sites were occluded by the zippering of the SNARE complex or open to proteolytic attack. Under low stimulation conditions, the catalytic light-chain fragment of botulinum B (BoNT/B-LC) inhibited evoked release at both phasic and tonic synapses and cleaved VAMP; however, neither BoNT/D-LC nor tetanus neurotoxin (TeNT-LC) were effective in these conditions. The susceptibility of VAMP to only BoNT/B-LC indicated that SNARE complexes at both phasic and tonic synapses were partially zippered only at the N-terminal end to approximately the zero-layer with the C-terminal end exposed under resting state. Therefore, the existence of the same partially zippered state of the trans-SNARE complex at both phasic and tonic synapses indicates that release probability is not determined solely by the zippered state of the trans-SNARE complex at least to the zero-layer.

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