Structural and functional plasticity of the cytoplasmic active zone

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2011 Feb;21(1):144-50. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2010.08.012. Epub 2010 Sep 9.


The presynaptic active zone (AZ) membrane is the site where vesicle fusion mediates information transfer between connected neurons. Reaching into the cytoplasm, an electron-dense cytomatrix (CAZ) is found to decorate the AZ membranes. CAZ architectures are meant not only to regulate the synaptic vesicle exocycle/endocycle, but also to structurally stabilize the presynaptic site. The CAZ is composed of a set of large scaffold proteins, many of which are evolutionarily conserved. Recently, several signaling factors controlling the developmental assembly of CAZs were found by unbiased genetics in Drosophila and Caenorhabditis elegans. At the same time, post-translational modification of CAZ proteins was implicated in changing the strength of mammalian brain synapses. Studying how processes of structural and functional CAZ plasticity get integrated within circuit remodeling remains an important challenge.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / embryology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cytoplasm / metabolism
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Neurogenesis / physiology*
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Neuropeptides / metabolism
  • Presynaptic Terminals / metabolism*
  • Presynaptic Terminals / ultrastructure
  • Synaptic Vesicles / metabolism*
  • Synaptic Vesicles / ultrastructure


  • Cytoskeletal Proteins
  • Neuropeptides