Structure and function of ribbon synapses

Trends Neurosci. 2005 Jan;28(1):20-9. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2004.11.009.


Sensory neurons with short conduction distances can use nonregenerative, graded potentials to modulate transmitter release continuously. This mechanism can transmit information at much higher rates than spiking. Graded signaling requires a synapse to sustain high rates of exocytosis for relatively long periods, and this capacity is the special virtue of ribbon synapses. Vesicles tethered to the ribbon provide a pool for sustained release that is typically fivefold greater than the docked pool available for fast release. The current article, which is part of the TINS Synaptic Connectivity series, reviews recent evidence for this fundamental computational strategy and its underlying cell biology.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Exocytosis / physiology
  • Hair Cells, Auditory / physiology
  • Hair Cells, Auditory / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Interneurons / physiology
  • Interneurons / ultrastructure
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology
  • Photoreceptor Cells / physiology*
  • Photoreceptor Cells / ultrastructure*
  • Presynaptic Terminals / physiology
  • Presynaptic Terminals / ultrastructure
  • Synapses / physiology*
  • Synapses / ultrastructure*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*
  • Synaptic Vesicles / metabolism
  • Synaptic Vesicles / ultrastructure