Pharmacology of neurotransmitter release: Measuring exocytosis

Mikhail Khvotchev, Ege T. Kavalali

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

8 Scopus citations


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. Currently, there are multiple methods to detect neurotransmitter release from nerve terminals, each with their own particular advantages and disadvantages. For instance, 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 themselves, which are often nonlinear detectors of released substances. Alternatively, released chemical substances can be detected biochemically, albeit on a time scale slower than electrophysiological methods. In addition, in certain preparations, where presynaptic terminals are accessible to whole cell recording electrodes, fusion of vesicles with the plasma membrane can be monitored using capacitance measurements. In the last 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 GFP variant at regions facing the vesicle lumen. In this chapter, we will provide an overview of these methods with particular emphasis on their relative strengths and weaknesses and discuss the types of information one can obtain from them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPharmacology of Neurotransmitter Release
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media, LLC
Number of pages21
ISBN (Print)9783540748045
StatePublished - 2008

Publication series

NameHandbook of Experimental Pharmacology
ISSN (Print)0171-2004
ISSN (Electronic)1865-0325

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)


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