Variable priming of a docked synaptic vesicle. Academic Article uri icon


  • The priming of a docked synaptic vesicle determines the probability of its membrane (VM) fusing with the presynaptic membrane (PM) when a nerve impulse arrives. To gain insight into the nature of priming, we searched by electron tomography for structural relationships correlated with fusion probability at active zones of axon terminals at frog neuromuscular junctions. For terminals fixed at rest, the contact area between the VM of docked vesicles and PM varied >10-fold with a normal distribution. There was no merging of the membranes. For terminals fixed during repetitive evoked synaptic transmission, the normal distribution of contact areas was shifted to the left, due in part to a decreased number of large contact areas, and there was a subpopulation of large contact areas where the membranes were hemifused, an intermediate preceding complete fusion. Thus, fusion probability of a docked vesicle is related to the extent of its VM-PM contact area. For terminals fixed 1 h after activity, the distribution of contact areas recovered to that at rest, indicating the extent of a VM-PM contact area is dynamic and in equilibrium. The extent of VM-PM contact areas in resting terminals correlated with eccentricity in vesicle shape caused by force toward the PM and with shortness of active zone material macromolecules linking vesicles to PM components, some thought to include Ca(2+) channels. We propose that priming is a variable continuum of events imposing variable fusion probability on each vesicle and is regulated by force-generating shortening of active zone material macromolecules in dynamic equilibrium.

published proceedings

  • Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

altmetric score

  • 2.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Jung, J. H., Szule, J. A., Marshall, R. M., & McMahan, U. J.

citation count

  • 27

complete list of authors

  • Jung, Jae Hoon||Szule, Joseph A||Marshall, Robert M||McMahan, Uel J

publication date

  • February 2016