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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Active zones and receptor surfaces of freeze-fractured crayfish phasic and tonic motor synapses.

Deep and superficial flexor muscles in the crayfish abdomen are innervated respectively by small populations of physiologically distinct phasic and tonic motoneurons. Phasic motoneurons typically produce large EPSP's, releasing 100 to 1000 times more transmitter per synapse than their tonic counterparts, and exhibiting more rapid synaptic depression with maintained stimulation. Freeze-fracturing the abdominal flexor muscles yielded images of phasic and tonic synapse-bearing terminals. The two types of synapse are qualitatively similar in ultrastructure, displaying on the presynaptic membrane's P-face synaptic contacts recognized by relatively particle-free oval plaques which are often framed by the muscle fiber's E-face leaflet with its associated receptor particles. Situated within these presynaptic plaques are discrete clusters of large intramembrane particles, forming active zone (AZ) sites specialized for transmitter release. AZs of phasic and tonic synapses are similar: 80% had a range of 15-40 large particles distributed in either paired spherical clusters or in linear form, with a few depressions denoting sites of synaptic vesicle fusion or retrieval around their perimeters. The packing density of particles is similar for phasic and tonic AZs. The E-face of the muscle membrane displays oval-shaped receptor-containing sites made up of tightly packed intramembranous particles. Phasic and tonic receptor particles are packed at similar densities and the measured values resemble those of several other crustacean and insect neuromuscular junctions. Overall, the similarity between phasic and tonic synapses in the packing density of particles at their presynaptic AZs and postsynaptic receptor surfaces suggests similar regulatory mechanisms for channel insertion and spacing. Furthermore, the findings suggest that morphological differences in active zones or receptor surfaces cannot account for large differences in transmitter release per synapse.[1]


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