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An investigation of synaptic vesicle docking and priming and a proposed method for quantitatively measuring both in Drosophila using electron tomography


The nervous system, as the body's command center, plays a crucial role in cellular communication within the brain and between the brain and other body systems. Neurons, the individual cellular units, transmit electrical information and communicate with other cells through neurotransmitter release in response to electrical stimuli. Chapter 1 introduces the foundational concepts of neuronal structure and function and delves into the mechanisms underlying neurotransmitter release. Special attention is given to the neuromuscular junction (NMJ), a well-studied chemical synapse crucial for muscle movement. The synaptic vesicle cycle is introduced, with particular emphasis on docking and priming. The significance of active zones, specialized sites for efficient signal transmission, and their associated structural components are underscored. Synaptotagmin, a pivotal protein in calcium-triggered vesicle fusion, is discussed with emphasis on its C2B polylysine motif. Throughout the chapter, the utility of Drosophila as a model system for studying synaptic processes, particularly at the NMJ, is emphasized. In sum, Chapter 1 provides the foundational knowledge essential for comprehending the intricate cellular and molecular facets of synaptic communication within the nervous system, serving as a precursor to subsequent chapters' investigations. Chapter 2 examines synaptotagmin's C2B polylysine motif and its role in synaptic vesicle docking at the Drosophila NMJ. It explores the polylysine motif's potential involvement in endocytosis, demonstrates an unaffected interaction with AP-2, and uses electron microscopy to find no significant changes in vesicle distribution. The findings suggest that the reduced neurotransmitter release in the polylysine mutant is likely due to an impairment in vesicle priming. Chapter 3 introduces a method for studying synaptic vesicle docking and priming in Drosophila, using electron tomography. I address the limitations of conventional electron microscopy and underscore the need for higher-resolution techniques to assess molecular structures that mediate physiological processes. Chapter 3 also emphasizes the significance of the contact area between docked vesicles and the presynaptic membrane as a correlate of vesicle priming. The protocol, expected results, and key considerations are discussed. The methods presented in Chapter 3 offer a promising approach for understanding synaptic processes. In Chapter 4, I discuss key considerations for when standard electron microscopy can be used for assessing vesicle docking. Then, I discuss how the electron tomography method presented in Chapter 3 could not only confirm the results found in Chapter 2, that the synaptotagmin C2B polylysine motif is not implicated in vesicle docking but could also be used to directly test the mutant's role in priming. Specific aims for future studies on the synaptotagmin polylysine mutation in Drosophila are presented, potential results and interpretations are discussed. Finally, I showcase interesting, unpublished findings from electron tomograms I have taken at the Drosophila NMJ and discuss their potential significance.


Includes bibliographical references.
2023 Fall.

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Embargo expires: 12/29/2025.


electron tomography
synaptic vesicle
neuromuscular junction
active zone


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