A rapid Percoll gradient procedure for preparation of synaptosomes

Nat Protoc. 2008;3(11):1718-28. doi: 10.1038/nprot.2008.171.


Homogenization of fresh brain tissue in isotonic medium shears plasma membranes causing nerve terminals to become separated from their axons and postsynaptic connections. The nerve terminal membranes then reseal to form synaptosomes. The discontinuous Percoll gradient procedure described here is designed to isolate synaptosomes from brain homogenates in the minimum time to allow functional experiments to be performed. Synaptosomes are isolated using a medium-speed centrifuge, while maintaining isotonic conditions and minimizing mechanically damaging resuspension steps. This protocol has advantages over other procedures in terms of speed and by producing relatively homogeneous synaptosomes, minimizing the presence of synaptic and glial plasma membranes and extrasynaptosomal mitochondria. The purified synaptosomes are viable and take up and release neurotransmitters very efficiently. A typical yield of synaptosomes is between 2.5 and 4 mg of synaptosomal protein per gram rat brain. The procedure takes approximately 1 h from homogenization of the brain until collection of the synaptosomal suspension from the Percoll gradient.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / cytology
  • Cell Fractionation / methods*
  • Centrifugation, Density Gradient / methods*
  • Povidone / chemistry*
  • Rats
  • Silicon Dioxide / chemistry*
  • Synaptosomes*


  • Percoll
  • Silicon Dioxide
  • Povidone