Morphologically docked synaptic vesicles are reduced in synaptotagmin mutants of Drosophila

Noreen E. Reist, Joann Buchanan, Jing Li, Aaron DiAntonio, Elizabeth M. Buxton, Thomas L. Schwarz

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Nerve terminal specializations include mechanisms for maintaining a subpopulation of vesicles in a docked, fusion-ready state. We have investigated the relationship between synaptotagmin and the number of morphologically docked vesicles by an electron microscopic analysis of Drosophila synaptotagmin (syt) mutants. The overall number of synaptic vesicles in a terminal was reduced, although each active zone continued to have a cluster of vesicles in its vicinity. In addition, there was an increase in the number of large vesicles near synapses. Examining the clusters, we found that the pool of synaptic vesicles immediately adjacent to the presynaptic membrane, the pool that includes the docked population, was reduced to 24 ± 5% (means ± SEM) of control in the syt(null) mutation. To separate contributions of overall vesicle depletion and increased spontaneous release from direct effects of synaptotagmin on morphological docking, we examined syt mutants in an altered genetic background. Recombining syt alleles onto a second chromosome bearing an as yet uncharacterized mutation resulted in the expected decrease in evoked release but suppressed the increase in spontaneous release frequency. Motor nerve terminals in this genotype contained more synaptic vesicles than control, yet the number of vesicles immediately adjacent to the presynaptic membrane near active zones was still reduced (33 ± 4% of control). Our findings demonstrate that there is a decrease in the number of morphologically docked vesicles seen in syt mutants. The decreases in docking and evoked release are independent of the increase in spontaneous release. These results support the hypothesis that synaptotagmin stabilizes the docked state.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7662-7673
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 1 1998


  • Drosophila
  • Electron microscopy
  • Synaptic vesicles
  • Synaptotagmin
  • Vesicle docking
  • Vesicle recycling


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