Editors' ChoiceNeuroscience

The Virtual Synapse

Science's STKE  19 Jul 2005:
Vol. 2005, Issue 293, pp. tw268
DOI: 10.1126/stke.2932005tw268

In a multiparameter, multidimensional system, building a quantitative and detailed model can be a helpful adjunct to experimental studies in exploring parameter space. Coggan et al. (see the Perspective by Lucic and Baumeister) have taken a step toward describing dynamic events at a neuronal synapse by reconstructing the architecture of the pre- and postsynaptic membranes and underlying cytoplasmic vesicles and incorporating kinetic measurements of neurotransmitter receptor properties, as well as other physical and chemical parameters of neurotransmitters. At this simulated synapse, the known electrophysiology of transmitter release could not be explained by vesicle fusion only at the active zone, the classical region of membrane apposition between the pre- and postsynaptic neurons. Instead, the modeled electrophysiology fits better to observations if ectopic release by vesicle fusion outside active zones is included.

J. S. Coggan, T. M. Bartol, E. Esquenazi, J. R. Stiles, S. Lamont, M. E. Martone, D. K. Berg, M. H. Ellisman, T. J. Sejnowski, Evidence for ectopic neurotransmission at a neuronal synapse. Science 309, 446-451 (2005). [Abstract] [Full Text]

V. Lucic, W. Baumeister, Monte Carlo places strong odds on ectopic release. Science 309, 387-388 (2005). [Summary] [Full Text]