Optical Monitoring of Exo- and Endocytosis

E. T. Kavalali

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Neurotransmission in the nervous system is initiated at presynaptic terminals by fusion of synaptic vesicles with the plasma membrane and subsequent exocytic release of chemical transmitters. There are multiple methods to detect neurotransmitter release from nerve terminals. Most commonly employed methods monitor actions of released chemical substances on postsynaptic receptors or artificial substrates such as carbon fibers. These methods are closest to the physiological setting because they have a rapid time resolution and they measure the action of the endogenous neurotransmitters rather than the signals emitted by exogenous probes. However, postsynaptic receptors only indirectly report neurotransmitter release in a form modified by the properties of receptors, which are often nonlinear detectors of released substances. In the past decade, in addition to electrophysiological and biochemical methods, several fluorescence imaging modalities have been introduced which report synaptic vesicle fusion, endocytosis, and recycling. These methods either take advantage of styryl dyes that can be loaded into recycling vesicles or exogenous expression of synaptic vesicle proteins tagged with a pH-sensitive green fluorescent protein variant at regions facing the vesicle lumen. This article provides an overview of these methods, with emphasis on their relative strengths and weaknesses, and it discusses the types of information one can obtain from them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Neuroscience
PublisherElsevier Ltd
Number of pages5
ISBN (Print)9780080450469
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009


  • Endocytosis
  • Exocytosis
  • FM dyes
  • Fluorescence
  • Imaging
  • Short-term synaptic depression
  • Synaptic vesicle
  • Synaptic vesicle pools
  • Synaptic vesicle recycling
  • Synaptobrevin
  • Synaptophluorin
  • Synaptophysin
  • Vesicular glutamate transporter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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