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nature neurOSCIenCe VOLUME 14 | NUMBER 9 | SEPTEMBER 2011 1135 a r t I C l e S

Summary: nature neurOSCIenCe VOLUME 14 | NUMBER 9 | SEPTEMBER 2011 1135
a r t I C l e S
Neurons communicate with each other primarily via synaptic contacts,
where chemical neurotransmitters are released. Transmitter-containing
vesicles undergo a series of steps that ultimately lead to their fusion
with the presynaptic plasma membrane, including trafficking to the
active zone, docking with the membrane and a priming step that readies
vesicles for fusion. At most synapses, vesicle fusion is precisely timed
to the occurrence of a presynaptic action potential1, resulting in a fast,
transient burst of release. However, in addition to transient release, syn-
aptic transmission at sensory neurons of the vertebrate visual, auditory
and vestibular systems also occurs by continuously graded modulation
of ongoing neurotransmitter release. These cells have evolved specific
structures, known as synaptic ribbons, for this task2. Ribbons are pro-
teinaceous structures that extend into the cytoplasm at the active zone
and are surrounded by a halo of synaptic vesicles tethered to the ribbon
by fine filaments3. Vesicles at the base of the ribbon are docked at the
plasma membrane, poised to provide fast transient release when calcium
channels open, whereas the more distal vesicles might support the con-
tinuous mode of release characteristic of ribbon-type synapses. However,


Source: Alford, Simon - Department of Biological Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago


Collections: Biology and Medicine