Research Article

Doc2b Is a High-Affinity Ca2+ Sensor for Spontaneous Neurotransmitter Release

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Science  26 Mar 2010:
Vol. 327, Issue 5973, pp. 1614-1618
DOI: 10.1126/science.1183765

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“Spontaneous” Release Trigger

Synaptic vesicle release occurs in different phases that can be tightly coupled to action potentials (synchronous), immediately following action potentials (asynchronous), or as stochastic events not triggered by action potentials (spontaneous). The vesicle protein synaptotagmin is thought to act as the Ca2+ sensor in the synchronous phase, but for the other two phases, Ca2+ sensors have not been identified. Groffen et al. (p. 1614, published online 11 February) now show that cytoplasmic proteins known as Doc2 (double C2 domain) proteins are required for spontaneous release. Doc2 proteins promote membrane fusion in response to exceptionally low increases in Ca2+, and are several orders of magnitude more sensitive to Ca2+ than synaptotagmin. Doc2 and synaptotagmin compete for SNARE-complex binding during membrane fusion. A mutation that abolishes the Ca2+ dependence of Doc2b also abolishes the Ca2+ dependence of spontaneous release. Thus, Doc2 is a high-affinity Ca2+ sensor for spontaneous release that competes with synaptotagmin for SNARE complex binding.

Abstract

Synaptic vesicle fusion in brain synapses occurs in phases that are either tightly coupled to action potentials (synchronous), immediately following action potentials (asynchronous), or as stochastic events in the absence of action potentials (spontaneous). Synaptotagmin-1, -2, and -9 are vesicle-associated Ca2+ sensors for synchronous release. Here we found that double C2 domain (Doc2) proteins act as Ca2+ sensors to trigger spontaneous release. Although Doc2 proteins are cytosolic, they function analogously to synaptotagmin-1 but with a higher Ca2+ sensitivity. Doc2 proteins bound to N-ethylmaleimide–sensitive factor attachment receptor (SNARE) complexes in competition with synaptotagmin-1. Thus, different classes of multiple C2 domain–containing molecules trigger synchronous versus spontaneous fusion, which suggests a general mechanism for synaptic vesicle fusion triggered by the combined actions of SNAREs and multiple C2 domain–containing proteins.

  • * These authors contributed equally to this work.

  • Present address: Max F. Perutz Laboratories, University of Vienna, Dr. Bohr-Gasse 9/3, 1030 Vienna, Austria.

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