Neurons transmit chemical signals in a fleeting “kiss-and-run” process, which in large part determines how quickly neurons can fire, according to new studies by Howard Hughes Medical Institute researchers.
The transfer of information between nerve cells occurs when chemicals called neurotransmitters are released into the synapse, the junction between neurons. Electrical impulses in the neuron cause tiny vesicles loaded with neurotransmitters to move to the tip of the nerve terminal where they are released.
In an article published in the June 5, 2003, issue of the journal Nature, HHMI investigator Charles F. Stevens and Sunil Gandhi, both at The Salk Institute, reported that they have devised a technique that permits them to visualize individual vesicles after they have released their cargo. The new findings are significant, said the researchers, because they answer questions about the rate at which synaptic vesicles can be recycled. This rate determines how much information nerve cells can transmit.
Jim Keeley | HHMI
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