Synaptic vesicles transiently dock to refill release sites

Nat Neurosci. 2020 Nov;23(11):1329-1338. doi: 10.1038/s41593-020-00716-1. Epub 2020 Sep 28.


Synaptic vesicles fuse with the plasma membrane to release neurotransmitter following an action potential, after which new vesicles must 'dock' to refill vacated release sites. To capture synaptic vesicle exocytosis at cultured mouse hippocampal synapses, we induced single action potentials by electrical field stimulation, then subjected neurons to high-pressure freezing to examine their morphology by electron microscopy. During synchronous release, multiple vesicles can fuse at a single active zone. Fusions during synchronous release are distributed throughout the active zone, whereas fusions during asynchronous release are biased toward the center of the active zone. After stimulation, the total number of docked vesicles across all synapses decreases by ~40%. Within 14 ms, new vesicles are recruited and fully replenish the docked pool, but this docking is transient and they either undock or fuse within 100 ms. These results demonstrate that the recruitment of synaptic vesicles to release sites is rapid and reversible.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Exocytosis / physiology*
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / ultrastructure
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Synaptic Vesicles / physiology*
  • Synaptic Vesicles / ultrastructure