The cytomatrix at the active zone (CAZ) is a macromolecular complex that facilitates the supply of release-ready synaptic vesicles to support neurotransmitter release at synapses. To reveal the dynamics of this supply process in living synapses, we used super-resolution imaging to track single vesicles at voltage-clamped presynaptic terminals of retinal bipolar neurons, whose CAZ contains a specialized structure-the synaptic ribbon-that supports both fast, transient and slow, sustained modes of transmission. We find that the synaptic ribbon serves a dual function as a conduit for diffusion of synaptic vesicles and a platform for vesicles to fuse distal to the plasma membrane itself, via compound fusion. The combination of these functions allows the ribbon-type CAZ to achieve the continuous transmitter release required by synapses of neurons that carry tonic, graded visual signals in the retina.
Animal experimentation: All animal procedures were in accord with NIH guidelines and followed protocol 247885 approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee of Stony Brook University.
- Christian Rosenmund, Charité, Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Germany
© 2016, Vaithianathan et al.
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