Exocytosis and Membrane Recycling

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 1981 Dec 18;296(1080):55-65. doi: 10.1098/rstb.1981.0171.


Exocytosis implies the fusion of the membrane of secretion granules with, and the insertion into, the plasmalemma. In non-growing systems such an insertion is temporary in that the inserted membrane is eventually removed. Turnover results indicate that the removed membrane is not destroyed but recycled within the cell and reused. In some systems exocytosis occurs over the entire plasmalemma, while in others it is restricted to discrete regions, characterized by peculiar morphology and composition. Thus the fusion of the two membranes is probably preceded by a recognition step. Structural specializations were detected in interacting granule and plasma membranes by freeze-fracture and surface labelling techniques: arrays of intramembrane particles in protozoans and nerve terminals; clearing of particles and surface antigens in other systems. Direct evidence, obtained in some secretory systems, indicates that after exocytosis the granules and plasma membranes do not intermix, but remain segregated. The subsequent recapture of membrane patches of the granule type (in many systems by means of coated pits and vesicles) could then account for the striking specificity of the recycling process, documented by both composition and structural studies. In different systems the recycling of granule membranes is carried out at greatly different rates. Recent results in the parotid gland and neuromuscular junction indicate that this process is Ca2+-dependent.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Membrane / physiology*
  • Exocytosis*
  • Intracellular Membranes / physiology*
  • Kinetics
  • Membrane Fusion*
  • Membrane Proteins / physiology
  • Neuromuscular Junction / physiology
  • Receptors, Drug / physiology


  • Membrane Proteins
  • Receptors, Drug