Greasing the synaptic vesicle cycle by membrane lipids

Trends Cell Biol. 2013 Oct;23(10):493-503. doi: 10.1016/j.tcb.2013.05.002. Epub 2013 Jun 8.


Neurotransmission is based on the exocytic release of neurotransmitters from synaptic vesicles (SVs) at nerve terminals and the subsequent retrieval of SV membranes. Evidence from genetic analysis of model organisms, high-resolution imaging, and biochemical studies indicate that, in addition to the well-studied function of exo-endocytic protein networks, membrane lipids and their derivatives play a key role in SV cycling. These include structural lipids such as cholesterol and sphingolipids as well as phosphoinositides (PIs), which interact with select components of the exocytic and endocytic machineries, thereby coupling both limbs of the SV cycle. Here we provide an overview of the function of lipids in SV cycling and discuss potential models of how lipids and lipid-protein interactions may regulate presynaptic function.

Keywords: cholesterol; lipids; neurotransmission; phosphoinositides; sphingolipids and derivatives; synaptic vesicle exo-endocytosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cholesterol / metabolism
  • Endocytosis / genetics
  • Exocytosis / genetics
  • Humans
  • Membrane Lipids / genetics*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism*
  • Protein Transport / genetics
  • Sphingolipids / metabolism
  • Synaptic Transmission / genetics*
  • Synaptic Vesicles / genetics*


  • Membrane Lipids
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Sphingolipids
  • Cholesterol