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Transmitter exocytosis from the neuronal soma is evoked by brief trains of high frequency electrical activity and continues for several minutes. Here we studied how active vesicle transport towards the plasma membrane contributes to this slow phenomenon in serotonergic leech Retzius neurons, by combining electron microscopy, the kinetics of exocytosis obtained from FM1-43 dye fluorescence as vesicles fuse with the plasma membrane, and a diffusion equation incorporating the forces of local confinement and molecular motors. Electron micrographs of neurons at rest or after stimulation with 1 Hz trains showed cytoplasmic clusters of dense core vesicles at 1.5±0.2 and 3.7±0.3 µm distances from the plasma membrane, to which they were bound through microtubule bundles. By contrast, after 20 Hz stimulation vesicle clusters were apposed to the plasma membrane, suggesting that transport was induced by electrical stimulation. Consistently, 20 Hz stimulation of cultured neurons induced spotted FM1-43 fluorescence increases with one or two slow sigmoidal kinetics, suggesting exocytosis from an equal number of vesicle clusters. These fluorescence increases were prevented by colchicine, which suggested microtubule-dependent vesicle transport. Model fitting to the fluorescence kinetics predicted that 52-951 vesicles/cluster were transported along 0.60-6.18 µm distances at average 11-95 nms(-1) velocities. The ATP cost per vesicle fused (0.4-72.0), calculated from the ratio of the ΔG(process)/ΔG(ATP), depended on the ratio of the traveling velocity and the number of vesicles in the cluster. Interestingly, the distance-dependence of the ATP cost per vesicle was bistable, with low energy values at 1.4 and 3.3 µm, similar to the average resting distances of the vesicle clusters, and a high energy barrier at 1.6-2.0 µm. Our study confirms that active vesicle transport is an intermediate step for somatic serotonin exocytosis by Retzius neurons and provides a quantitative method for analyzing similar phenomena in other cell types.


Francisco F De-Miguel, Iván Santamaría-Holek, Paula Noguez, Carlos Bustos, Enrique Hernández-Lemus, J Miguel Rubí. Biophysics of active vesicle transport, an intermediate step that couples excitation and exocytosis of serotonin in the neuronal soma. PloS one. 2012;7(10):e45454

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PMID: 23056204

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