Fast synaptic communication in the brain requires synchronous vesicle fusion that is evoked by action potential-induced Ca 2+ influx. However, synaptic terminals also release neurotransmitters by spontaneous vesicle fusion, which is independent of presynaptic action potentials. A functional role for spontaneous neurotransmitter release events in the regulation of synaptic plasticity and homeostasis, as well as the regulation of certain behaviours, has been reported. In addition, there is evidence that the presynaptic mechanisms underlying spontaneous release of neurotransmitters and their postsynaptic targets are segregated from those of evoked neurotransmission. These findings challenge current assumptions about neuronal signalling and neurotransmission, as they indicate that spontaneous neurotransmission has an autonomous role in interneuronal communication that is distinct from that of evoked release.
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