Synaptic communication between neurons is a highly dynamic process involving specialized structures. At the level of the presynaptic terminal, neurotransmission is ensured by fusion of vesicles to the membrane, which releases neurotransmitter in the synaptic cleft. Depending on the level of activity experienced by the terminal, the spatiotemporal properties of calcium invasion will dictate the timing and the number of vesicles that need to be released. Diverse presynaptic firing patterns are translated to neurotransmitter release with a distinct temporal feature. Complex patterns of neurotransmitter release can be achieved when different vesicles respond to distinct calcium dynamics in the presynaptic terminal. Specific vesicles from different pools are recruited during various modes of release as the particular molecular composition of their membrane proteins define their functional properties. Such diversity endows the presynaptic terminal with the ability to respond to distinct physiological signals via the mobilization of specific subpopulation of vesicles. There are several mechanisms by which a diverse vesicle population could be generated in single presynaptic terminals, including distinct recycling pathways that utilize various adaptor proteins. Several additional factors could potentially contribute to the development of a heterogeneous vesicle pool such as specialized release sites, spatial segregation within the terminal and specialized delivery pathways. Among these factors molecular heterogeneity plays a central role in defining the functional properties of different subpopulations of vesicles.
© 2015 The Authors. The Journal of Physiology © 2015 The Physiological Society.