Composition of isolated synaptic boutons reveals the amounts of vesicle trafficking proteins

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Science  30 May 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6187, pp. 1023-1028
DOI: 10.1126/science.1252884

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High-definition view of the synapse

Individual neurons communicate with one another via their synapses, so to understand the nervous system, we need to understand in detail how the synapses are organized. Wilhelm et al. present a quantitative molecular-scale image of the “average” synapse populated with realistic renditions of each of the protein components that contribute to the inner workings of neurons.

Science, this issue p. 1023


Synaptic vesicle recycling has long served as a model for the general mechanisms of cellular trafficking. We used an integrative approach, combining quantitative immunoblotting and mass spectrometry to determine protein numbers; electron microscopy to measure organelle numbers, sizes, and positions; and super-resolution fluorescence microscopy to localize the proteins. Using these data, we generated a three-dimensional model of an “average” synapse, displaying 300,000 proteins in atomic detail. The copy numbers of proteins involved in the same step of synaptic vesicle recycling correlated closely. In contrast, copy numbers varied over more than three orders of magnitude between steps, from about 150 copies for the endosomal fusion proteins to more than 20,000 for the exocytotic ones.

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