This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

SNAREs at the Synapse

Using tiny lipid discs, scientists resolve contradictory evidence about how many proteins are required for neurotransmitter release.


There is very little about membrane vesicle fusion that Yale University biochemist James Rothman doesn’t know—he codiscovered SNAREs, the proteins that orchestrate the process. But one unanswered question in the field of membrane fusion has been what happens during the first milliseconds of synaptic transmission between neurons—when a vesicle full of neurotransmitters inside a neuron fuses to the cell membrane, opening a pore to release its contents into the synapse.

A fusion pore, the opening that occurs when a vesicle binds to a cell membrane, is present for just hundreds of microseconds, a thousand times shorter than the blink of an eye. Immediately after it opens, the pore rapidly expands as the vesicle membrane melts into the surrounding cell membrane. That quick transition has made it extremely difficult to study the pore, says Rothman. “We thought that if we could find a way to artificially stabilize the fusion pore, without interfering with its opening, we might be able to gain some new insights into neurotransmission,” he said.

To do so, Rothman’s group, together with Frédéric Pincet’s team at CNRS in Paris, France, created fusion pores in nanodiscs—circular discs of lipid bilayers, held together by scaffold proteins wrapped around each lipid disc like a belt. Because of the nanodiscs’ small size and rigid structure, a fusion pore can form but does not expand beyond 2 nm, essentially freezing the pore in place for analysis.
Read more



Bonobo makes stone tools like early...

Hannah Krakauer - New Scientist Comments

Kanzi the bonobo is able to create and use stone tools

Scientists Discover Previously Unknown...

- - URMC Comments

Newer Imaging Technique Brings ‘Glymphatic System’ to Light

Grey parrots use reasoning where...

- - The Royal Society Comments

Research suggesting that grey parrots can reason about cause and effect from audio cues alone- a skill that monkeys and dogs lack- is presented in Proceedings of the Royal Society B today.

Why do organisms build tissues they...

- - Science Blog Comments

Why, after millions of years of evolution, do organisms build structures that seemingly serve no purpose?

New flat-faced human species possibly...

Charles Choi - CBS News Comments

Four decades ago, in 1972, the Koobi Fora Research Project discovered the enigmatic fossilized skull known as KNM-ER 1470 which ignited a now long-standing debate about how many different species of early Homos existed.

A New Species Discovered ... On Flickr

Adam Cole - NPR Comments

One day in May of 2011, Shaun Winterton was looking at pictures of bugs on the Internet when something unusual caught his eye. It was a close shot of a green lacewing — an insect he knew well — but on its wing was an unfamiliar network of black lines and a few flecks of blue.



Let Them Eat Dirt

Megan Scudellari - The Scientist 25 Comments

Let Them Eat DirtEarly exposure to microbes shapes the mammalian immune system by subduing inflammatory T cells.

Next Generation: Sneaking into a Cell

Megan Scudellari - TheScientist 7 Comments

Next Generation: Sneaking into a Cell

A nanoscale device measures electrical signals inside cells without causing damage

Amoeba agriculture

Megan Scudellari - TheScientist 22 Comments

Some slime molds transport and farm the bacteria they eat



Please Login to RDFRS to Comment

Sign in to RDF

blog comments powered by Disqus