Signaling in the nervous system depends on the regulated exocytosis of specialized secretory vesicles. Membrane fusion initiates the process of release, but behavior of the pore formed by fusion can control the rate, extent and identity of what is released. Indeed, the fusion pore can reseal before full vesicle collapse into the plasma membrane, potentially trapping unreleased cargo in a form of exocytosis known as `kiss-and-run', a regulatory mechanism well-established for large dense core vesicles (LDCVs), which release neuromodulators. However, the mechanisms that regulate behavior of the fusion pore have remained unclear and its role in the release of classical neurotransmitters from synaptic vesicles (SVs) has been controversial. The actin cytoskeleton and its associated proteins have been suggested to influence pore behavior but the role has remained unclear. The presynaptic protein ?-synuclein has a central role in the pathogenesis of Parkinson's disease (PD). Human genetics shows that mutations in synuclein can cause the disease and the protein accumulates in all patients with the idiopathic disorder. Like other proteins important for neurodegeneration, however, its normal function has remained unknown. Using knockout mice and imaging by light and electron microscopy, we have found that endogenous synuclein normally regulates the fusion pore formed by both LDCVs and SVs, thus influencing the mode of release. The long-term objectives of this program are to understand how synuclein cooperates with other cellular factors to promote fusion pore dilation and how a disturbance in this activity contributes to disease. Since the available methods have limited analysis of the fusion pore and vesicle collapse, we have developed new methods to image the full scope of exocytosis by individual vesicles. Using these, we will study the role of synuclein in pore dilation and membrane collapse by both large dense core vesicles and synaptic vesicles. Specifically, we propose to 1) Characterize the role of synuclein in exocytosis by imaging at high resolution with several complementary methods, including false fluorescent neurotransmitters and Alexa dye entry. 2) Assess the interaction of synuclein with the actin cytoskeleton. Observations in multiple systems have implicated the actin cystoskeleton in exocytosis including pore dilation and we will determine whether synuclein acts through a common or independent mechanism. 3) Determine how the structure of ?-synuclein contributes to its role in exocytosis. We will determine how the N- terminal repeats and C-terminus contribute to normal function. We will test the role of established phosphorylation sites since they may contribute to idiopathic disease by mimicking inherited mutations.

Public Health Relevance

Despite its central role in Parkinson's disease, the normal function of ?-synuclein remains unknown. We have recently found that synuclein normally functions to promote the collapse of secretory vesicle membrane after exocytosis, and in this project, we will elucidate the mechanism.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Research Project (R01)
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Synapses, Cytoskeleton and Trafficking Study Section (SYN)
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Sieber, Beth-Anne
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University of California San Francisco
Schools of Medicine
San Francisco
United States
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