The actin cytoskeleton and neurotransmitter release: an overview

Biochimie. 2000 Apr;82(4):353-63. doi: 10.1016/s0300-9084(00)00217-0.


Here we review evidence that actin and its binding partners are involved in the release of neurotransmitters at synapses. The spatial and temporal characteristics of neurotransmitter release are determined by the distribution of synaptic vesicles at the active zones, presynaptic sites of secretion. Synaptic vesicles accumulate near active zones in a readily releasable pool that is docked at the plasma membrane and ready to fuse in response to calcium entry and a secondary, reserve pool that is in the interior of the presynaptic terminal. A network of actin filaments associated with synaptic vesicles might play an important role in maintaining synaptic vesicles within the reserve pool. Actin and myosin also have been implicated in the translocation of vesicles from the reserve pool to the presynaptic plasma membrane. Refilling of the readily releasable vesicle pool during intense stimulation of neurotransmitter release also implicates synapsins as reversible links between synaptic vesicles and actin filaments. The diversity of actin binding partners in nerve terminals suggests that actin might have presynaptic functions beyond synaptic vesicle tethering or movement. Because most of these actin-binding proteins are regulated by calcium, actin might be a pivotal participant in calcium signaling inside presynaptic nerve terminals. However, there is no evidence that actin participates in fusion of synaptic vesicles.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Actins / metabolism*
  • Actins / ultrastructure
  • Animals
  • Cytoskeleton / physiology*
  • Microfilament Proteins / metabolism
  • Microfilament Proteins / physiology
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism*
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / physiology
  • Synapses / metabolism
  • Synapses / ultrastructure
  • Synaptic Vesicles / metabolism
  • Synaptic Vesicles / physiology


  • Actins
  • Microfilament Proteins
  • Neurotransmitter Agents