Key to brain cell communication is like oil and water

A liquid phase of synapsin and lipid vesicles.

Synaptic vesicles (blue) that harbor chemical messengers form tight clusters within cells. (Image courtesy of Dr. Yumel Wu, Yale School of Medicine)
Synaptic vesicles (blue) that harbor chemical messengers form tight clusters within cells. (Image courtesy of Dr. Yumel Wu, Yale School of Medicine)

The nervous system depends on the firmly regulated spatial and fleeting communication that happens between neurons at specific associations called synapses. Chemical signals called neurotransmitters, the particles in charge of communication between neurons, are stuffed into many membrane sacks known as synaptic vesicles.

These vesicles frame tight clusters at the nerve terminal. Regardless of being held together, vesicles are very versatile inside these clusters, with the goal that they can be randomly enrolled to the surface of the cell to discharge their endless supply of the neuron.

In a new study by the Yale, scientists describe how this compact but highly mobile structure is achieved. According to them, these synaptic vesicles compose themselves within a liquid compartment inside of the cell, much as oil does when blended with water.

Scientists suggest that the vesicles can “demix” in the presence of a common nerve terminal protein synapsin, explaining how vesicles can both remain tightly clustered yet rapidly fuse with the membrane of neurons when activated.

The study published in the journal Science was co-authored by Dragomir Milovanovic, Yumei Wu, Xin Bian, Pietro De Camilli.