Altered synaptic development and active zone spacing in endocytosis mutants

Curr Biol. 2006 Mar 21;16(6):591-8. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2006.02.058.


Many types of synapses have highly characteristic shapes and tightly regulated distributions of active zones, parameters that are important to the function of neuronal circuits. The development of terminal arborizations must therefore include mechanisms to regulate the spacing of terminals, the frequency of branching, and the distribution and density of release sites. At present, however, the mechanisms that control these features remain obscure. Here, we report the development of supernumerary or "satellite" boutons in a variety of endocytic mutants at the Drosophila neuromuscular junction. Mutants in endophilin, synaptojanin, dynamin, AP180, and synaptotagmin all show increases in supernumerary bouton structures. These satellite boutons contain releasable vesicles and normal complements of synaptic proteins that are correctly localized within terminals. Interestingly, however, synaptojanin terminals have more active zones per unit of surface area and more dense bodies (T-bars) within these active zones, which may in part compensate for reduced transmission per active zone. The altered structural development of the synapse is selectively encountered in endocytosis mutants and is not observed when synaptic transmission is reduced by mutations in glutamate receptors or when synaptic transmission is blocked by tetanus toxin. We propose that endocytosis plays a critical role in sculpting the structure of synapses, perhaps through the endocytosis of unknown regulatory signals that organize morphogenesis at synaptic terminals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acyltransferases / genetics
  • Animals
  • Drosophila / genetics
  • Drosophila / growth & development*
  • Drosophila / ultrastructure
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics*
  • Dynamins / genetics
  • Endocytosis / genetics
  • Endocytosis / physiology*
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Larva / genetics
  • Larva / growth & development
  • Larva / ultrastructure
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Monomeric Clathrin Assembly Proteins / genetics
  • Mutation
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Neuromuscular Junction / growth & development*
  • Neuromuscular Junction / ultrastructure
  • Phenotype
  • Phosphoric Monoester Hydrolases / genetics
  • Presynaptic Terminals / metabolism
  • Presynaptic Terminals / physiology
  • Presynaptic Terminals / ultrastructure*


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Monomeric Clathrin Assembly Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • clathrin assembly protein AP180
  • Acyltransferases
  • endophilin A, Drosophila
  • synaptojanin
  • Phosphoric Monoester Hydrolases
  • Dynamins