Membrane permeability of trace amines: evidence for a regulated, activity-dependent, nonexocytotic, synaptic release

Synapse. 2013 Oct;67(10):656-67. doi: 10.1002/syn.21670. Epub 2013 May 21.


Both pre- and post-synaptic effects of trace amines have been demonstrated. The putative intracellular location of Trace Amine-Associated Receptors necessitate that membrane transport processes be present in order for post-synaptic effects to occur. Here we examine the ability of trace amines to cross synthetic (Fluorosomes) and native (synaptosomes) lipid bilayer membranes. Trace amines readily crossed Fluorosome membranes by simple diffusion, p-tyramine (P = 0.01) and tryptamine (P = 0.0004) showing significantly faster diffusion than dopamine and 5-HT, respectively, with diffusion half-lives of 13.5 ± 4.1 (p-tyramine) and 6.8 ± 0.7 seconds (tryptamine). Similarly, release of [(3) H]p-tyramine and [(3) H]2-phenylethylamine from pre-loaded synaptosomes occurred significantly quicker than did [(3) H]dopamine (P = 0.0001), with half lives of 38.9 (p-tyramine), 7.8 (2-phenylethylamine) and 133.6 seconds (dopamine). This was, however, significantly slower than the diffusion mediated passage across Fluorosome membranes (P = 0.0001), suggesting a role for transporters in mediating trace amine release. Further, a pronounced shoulder region was observed in the synaptosome [(3) H]p-tyramine release curve, suggesting that multiple processes regulate release. No such shoulder region was present for [(3) H]dopamine release. Surprisingly, both [(3) H]p-tyramine (P = 0.001) and [(3) H]2-phenylethylamine (P = 0.0001) release from synaptosomes was significantly decreased under depolarizing conditions. As expected, depolarization significantly increased [(3) H]dopamine release. The data presented indicate that the release of p-tyramine and 2-phenylethylamine from neuronal terminals occurs by a different mechanism than dopamine, and does not involve classical exocytosis. The data are consistent with an initial release of trace amines by simple diffusion, followed by an activity-dependent regulation of synaptic levels via one or more transporter proteins.

Keywords: 2-phenylethylamine; dopamine; fluorosomes; p-tyramine; synaptosomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amines / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Cell Membrane Permeability*
  • Diffusion
  • Exocytosis
  • Lipid Bilayers / metabolism
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Rats
  • Synaptic Membranes / metabolism*
  • Synaptosomes / metabolism


  • Amines
  • Lipid Bilayers