Quantitative comparison of glutamatergic and GABAergic synaptic vesicles unveils selectivity for few proteins including MAL2, a novel synaptic vesicle protein

J Neurosci. 2010 Jan 6;30(1):2-12. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4074-09.2010.


Synaptic vesicles (SVs) store neurotransmitters and release them by exocytosis. The vesicular neurotransmitter transporters discriminate which transmitter will be sequestered and stored by the vesicles. However, it is unclear whether the neurotransmitter phenotype of SVs is solely defined by the transporters or whether it is associated with additional proteins. Here we have compared the protein composition of SVs enriched in vesicular glutamate (VGLUT-1) and GABA transporters (VGAT), respectively, using quantitative proteomics. Of >450 quantified proteins, approximately 50 were differentially distributed between the populations, with only few of them being specific for SVs. Of these, the most striking differences were observed for the zinc transporter ZnT3 and the vesicle proteins SV2B and SV31 that are associated preferentially with VGLUT-1 vesicles, and for SV2C that is associated mainly with VGAT vesicles. Several additional proteins displayed a preference for VGLUT-1 vesicles including, surprisingly, synaptophysin, synaptotagmins, and syntaxin 1a. Moreover, MAL2, a membrane protein of unknown function distantly related to synaptophysins and SCAMPs, cofractionated with VGLUT-1 vesicles. Both subcellular fractionation and immunolocalization at the light and electron microscopic level revealed that MAL2 is a bona-fide membrane constituent of SVs that is preferentially associated with VGLUT-1-containing nerve terminals. We conclude that SVs specific for different neurotransmitters share the majority of their protein constituents, with only few vesicle proteins showing preferences that, however, are nonexclusive, thus confirming that the vesicular transporters are the only components essential for defining the neurotransmitter phenotype of a SV.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Glutamic Acid / chemistry*
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Male
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Myelin and Lymphocyte-Associated Proteolipid Proteins
  • Presynaptic Terminals / chemistry
  • Presynaptic Terminals / metabolism
  • Proteolipids / chemistry*
  • Proteolipids / metabolism
  • Rabbits
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Synaptic Vesicles / chemistry*
  • Synaptic Vesicles / physiology*
  • Vesicular Transport Proteins / chemistry*
  • Vesicular Transport Proteins / metabolism
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / physiology*


  • MAL2 protein, human
  • Myelin and Lymphocyte-Associated Proteolipid Proteins
  • Proteolipids
  • Vesicular Transport Proteins
  • Glutamic Acid
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid