Biochimica et Biophysica Acta. Molecular and Cell Biology of Lipids vol:1821 issue:8 pages:1114-1132
Chemical synapses are specialist points of contact between two neurons, where information transfer takes place. Communication occurs through the release of neurotransmitter substances from small synaptic vesicles in the presynaptic terminal, which fuse with the presynaptic plasma membrane in response to neuronal stimulation. However, as neurons in the central nervous system typically only possess ~200 vesicles, high levels of release would quickly lead to a depletion in the number of vesicles, as well as leading to an increase in the area of the presynaptic plasma membrane (and possible misalignment with postsynaptic structures). Hence, synaptic vesicle fusion is tightly coupled to a local recycling of synaptic vesicles. For a long time, however, the exact molecular mechanisms coupling fusion and subsequent recycling remained unclear. Recent work now indicates a unique role for the plasma membrane lipid phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate (PIP(2)), acting together with the vesicular protein synaptotagmin, in coupling these two processes. In this work, we review the evidence for such a mechanism and discuss both the possible advantages and disadvantages for vesicle recycling (and hence signal transduction) in the nervous system. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled Lipids and Vesicular Transport.