Lipid function at synapses

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2010 Oct;20(5):543-9. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2010.06.008. Epub 2010 Jul 23.


Chemical neurotransmission between neurons is a major point for modulation of neuronal activity. The neuronal synapse is the site of continuous cycles of rapid vesicle fusion (exocytosis) followed by their retrieval (endocytosis). Ongoing research efforts are largely focused on synaptic proteins involved in membrane fusion-and-fission, but it is now becoming clear that the dynamic lipid environment, where these proteins operate, also plays a key role in the modulation of chemical transmission. Growing evidence suggests that lipid metabolites regulate both vesicle fusion and retrieval highlighting the fact that membrane lipids have functions beyond the structural role. Furthermore, direct involvement of lipid metabolism in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, necessitates rigorous investigation of the effects of lipids on synaptic mechanisms. Recent findings and possible lines of further investigation will be discussed in this review.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Fusion / methods
  • Cell Fusion / trends
  • Exocytosis / genetics
  • Exocytosis / physiology
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism / genetics
  • Lipid Metabolism / physiology
  • Membrane Lipids / metabolism
  • Membrane Lipids / physiology*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / genetics
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / metabolism
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / pathology
  • Synapses / pathology
  • Synapses / physiology*
  • Synaptic Membranes / pathology
  • Synaptic Membranes / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*


  • Membrane Lipids