Dopamine neurons release transmitter via a flickering fusion pore

Nat Neurosci. 2004 Apr;7(4):341-6. doi: 10.1038/nn1205. Epub 2004 Feb 29.


A key question in understanding mechanisms of neurotransmitter release is whether the fusion pore of a synaptic vesicle regulates the amount of transmitter released during exocytosis. We measured dopamine release from small synaptic vesicles of rat cultured ventral midbrain neurons using carbon fiber amperometry. Our data indicate that small synaptic vesicle fusion pores flicker either once or multiple times in rapid succession, with each flicker releasing approximately 25-30% of vesicular dopamine. The incidence of events with multiple flickers was reciprocally regulated by phorbol esters and staurosporine. Thus, dopamine neurons regulate the amount of neurotransmitter released by small synaptic vesicles by controlling the number of fusion pore flickers per exocytotic event. This mode of exocytosis is a potential mechanism whereby neurons can rapidly reuse vesicles without undergoing the comparatively slow process of recycling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Electrophysiology / methods
  • Exocytosis / physiology*
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Mesencephalon / cytology
  • Mesencephalon / metabolism
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Protein Transport / physiology
  • Rats
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*
  • Synaptic Vesicles / metabolism*


  • Dopamine