Mechanism of transport and storage of neurotransmitters

CRC Crit Rev Biochem. 1987;22(1):1-38. doi: 10.3109/10409238709082546.


This review will focus on the bioenergetics, mechanism, and molecular basis of neurotransmitter transport. As indicated in the next section, these processes play an important role in the overall process of synaptic transmission. During the last few years, direct evidence has been obtained that these processes are coupled chemiosmotically, i.e., the accumulation of neurotransmitters is driven by ion gradients. Two types of neurotransmitter transport systems have been identified: sodium-coupled systems located in the synaptic plasma membrane of nerves (and sometimes in the plasma membrane of glial cells) and proton-coupled systems which are part of the membrane of intracellular storage organelles. From a bioenergetic point of view, the sodium-coupled systems are especially interesting, since it has recently been discovered that many systems require other ions in addition to sodium. It has now been demonstrated in several cases that, besides sodium ions, these additional ions, such as chloride and potassium, serve as additional coupling ions. These systems will be reviewed here in considerable detail with emphasis on the role of the additional ions. In the second part of the review we shall focus on neurotransmitter transport into storage organelles. Although both sodium and proton coupled systems have been reviewed in the past, there has been a shift from a kinetic and thermodynamic to a biochemical approach. In fact, a few transporters have been identified and functionally reconstituted. These developments have of course been incorporated in this review.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amines / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Chlorides / metabolism
  • Electrochemistry
  • Glutamates / metabolism
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism*
  • Potassium / metabolism
  • Protons
  • Sodium / metabolism
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism


  • Amines
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Chlorides
  • Glutamates
  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Protons
  • Glutamic Acid
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Sodium
  • Potassium