Cysteine string protein-α (CSP-α) is a synaptic vesicle protein that prevents activity-dependent neurodegeneration by poorly understood mechanisms. We have studied the synaptic vesicle cycle at the motor nerve terminals of CSP-α knock-out mice expressing the synaptopHluorin transgene. Mutant nerve terminals fail to sustain prolonged release and the number of vesicles available to be released decreases. Strikingly, the SNARE protein SNAP-25 is dramatically reduced. In addition, endocytosis during the stimulus fails to maintain the size of the recycling synaptic vesicle pool during prolonged stimulation. Upon depolarization, the styryl dye FM 2-10 becomes trapped and poorly releasable. Consistently with the functional results, electron microscopy analysis revealed characteristic features of impaired synaptic vesicle recycling. The unexpected defect in vesicle recycling in CSP-α knock-out mice provides insights into understanding molecular mechanisms of degeneration in motor nerve terminals.
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