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G protein betagamma-subunits activated by serotonin mediate presynaptic inhibition by regulating vesicle fusion properties.


Photowala HHuzefa , Blackmer T Trillium , Schwartz E Eric , Hamm HE Heidi E , Alford S Simon . Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2006 3 14; 103(11). 4281-6


Neurotransmitters are thought to be released as quanta, where synaptic vesicles deliver packets of neurotransmitter to the synaptic cleft by fusion with the plasma membrane. However, synaptic vesicles may undergo incomplete fusion. We provide evidence that G protein-coupled receptors inhibit release by causing such incomplete fusion. 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) receptor signaling potently inhibits excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs) between lamprey reticulospinal axons and their postsynaptic targets by a direct action on the vesicle fusion machinery. We show that 5-HT receptor-mediated presynaptic inhibition, at this synapse, involves a reduction in EPSC quantal size. Quantal size was measured directly by comparing unitary quantal amplitudes of paired EPSCs before and during 5-HT application and indirectly by determining the effect of 5-HT on the relationship between mean-evoked EPSC amplitude and variance. Results from FM dye-labeling experiments indicate that 5-HT prevents full fusion of vesicles. 5-HT reduces FM1-43 staining of vesicles with a similar efficacy to its effect on the EPSC. However, destaining of FM1-43-labeled vesicles is abolished by lower concentrations of 5-HT that leave a substantial EPSC. The use of a water-soluble membrane impermeant quenching agent in the extracellular space reduced FM1-43 fluorescence during stimulation in 5-HT. Thus vesicles contact the extracellular space during inhibition of synaptic transmission by 5-HT. We conclude that 5-HT, via free Gbetagamma, prevents the collapse of synaptic vesicles into the presynaptic membrane.