The presynaptic active zone

Neuron. 2012 Jul 12;75(1):11-25. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2012.06.012.


Neurotransmitters are released by synaptic vesicle exocytosis at the active zone of a presynaptic nerve terminal. In this review, I discuss the molecular composition and function of the active zone. Active zones are composed of an evolutionarily conserved protein complex containing as core constituents RIM, Munc13, RIM-BP, α-liprin, and ELKS proteins. This complex docks and primes synaptic vesicles for exocytosis, recruits Ca(2+) channels to the site of exocytosis, and positions the active zone exactly opposite to postsynaptic specializations via transsynaptic cell-adhesion molecules. Moreover, this complex mediates short- and long-term plasticity in response to bursts of action potentials, thus critically contributing to the computational power of a synapse.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Exocytosis / physiology
  • Humans
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism
  • Presynaptic Terminals / metabolism*
  • Presynaptic Terminals / ultrastructure*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology
  • Synaptic Vesicles / metabolism*
  • Synaptic Vesicles / ultrastructure*


  • Neurotransmitter Agents