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Membrane fusion at the synapse: Janus faced synaptotagmin-1 helps to keep the fast pace
Date:10/29/2008

Imagine a bathtub with two soap bubbles colliding but never fusing. Then you add detergent, and the surface of the water goes flat as the walls of the bubbles collapse and merge.

Dr. Christian Rosenmund, professor of neuroscience and molecular and human genetics at Baylor College of Medicine, and graduate student Mingshan Xue use that analogy to describe the action of synaptotagmin-1, which acts to catalyze the fusion of the membranes of tiny neurotransmitter-filled bubbles called vesicles with the wall membrane of a neuron. This action allows signals to flow between neurons.

In a report in the current issue of Nature Structural and Molecular Biology, Rosenmund, Xue and colleagues from The University of Texas Southwestern Medical School at Dallas turn the notion of how synaptotagmin-1 accomplishes this task upside down, making an important step forward in understanding how synaptotagmin-1 accomplishes this task.

In fact, said Xue, bringing the two membranes together involves both the top and bottom of a key domain of the protein. He demonstrated this in a series of elegant experiments that validated the importance of the bottom of the domain.

"We are looking at the molecular mechanism of synaptic transmission or how neurons communicate in the brain," said Xue.

Previously, experts had thought that only the top areas of the so-called C2B domain of synaptotagmin-1 were involved in facilitating fast neurotransmitter release.

When the neuron is in a pre-synapse phase, it explodes in electrical activity that opens a channel allowing positively charged calcium ions to go to the balloon-shaped vesicles inside the presynapse to trigger the release of neurotransmitter. Transferring neurotransmitters from one neuron to another requires the fusion of the vesicle's membrane with its host plasma membrane. This allows the neurotransmitter to diffuse to the postsynaptic part of the synapse.

Neurons send an
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Contact: Glenna Picton
picton@bcm.edu
713-798-4710
Baylor College of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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