SNAREs (soluble N-ethylmaleimide-sensitive factor attachment protein receptors) are a large family of proteins that are present on all organelles involved in intracellular vesicle trafficking and secretion. The interaction of complementary SNAREs found on opposing membranes presents an attractive lock-and-key mechanism, which may underlie the specificity of vesicle trafficking. Moreover, formation of the tight complex between a vesicle membrane SNARE and corresponding target membrane SNAREs could drive membrane fusion. In synapses, this tight complex, also referred to as the synaptic core complex, is essential for neurotransmitter release. However, recent observations in knockout mice lacking major synaptic SNAREs challenge the prevailing notion on the executive role of these proteins in fusion and open up several questions about their exact role(s) in neurotransmitter release. Persistence of a form of regulated neurotransmitter release in these mutant mice also raises the possibility that other cognate or non-cognate SNAREs may partially compensate for the loss of a particular SNARE. Future analysis of SNARE function in central synapses will also have implications for the role of these molecules in other vesicle trafficking events such as endocytosis and vesicle replenishment. Such analysis can provide a molecular basis for synaptic processes including certain forms of short-term synaptic plasticity.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)