Presynaptic activity and protein turnover are correlated at the single-synapse level

Cell Rep. 2021 Mar 16;34(11):108841. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2021.108841.


Synaptic transmission relies on the continual exocytosis and recycling of synaptic vesicles. Aged vesicle proteins are prevented from recycling and are eventually degraded. This implies that active synapses would lose vesicles and vesicle-associated proteins over time, unless the supply correlates to activity, to balance the losses. To test this hypothesis, we first model the quantitative relation between presynaptic spike rate and vesicle turnover. The model predicts that the vesicle supply needs to increase with the spike rate. To follow up this prediction, we measure protein turnover in individual synapses of cultured hippocampal neurons by combining nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometry (nanoSIMS) and fluorescence microscopy. We find that turnover correlates with activity at the single-synapse level, but not with other parameters such as the abundance of synaptic vesicles or postsynaptic density proteins. We therefore suggest that the supply of newly synthesized proteins to synapses is closely connected to synaptic activity.

Keywords: aging; imaging mass spectrometry; mathematical modeling; microscopy; synapse; synaptic vesicle; turnover.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Fluorescence
  • Homeostasis
  • Homer Scaffolding Proteins / metabolism
  • Male
  • Models, Neurological
  • Nanotechnology
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism*
  • Presynaptic Terminals / metabolism*
  • Protein Biosynthesis
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Synaptic Vesicles / metabolism
  • Synaptophysin / metabolism


  • HOMER1 protein, human
  • Homer Scaffolding Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Synaptophysin