Synaptic vesicles in the brain harbor several soluble N-ethylmaleimide- sensitive-factor attachment protein receptor (SNARE) proteins. With the exception of synaptobrevin2, or VAMP2 (syb2), which is directly involved in vesicle fusion, the role of these SNAREs in neurotransmission is unclear. Here we show that in mice syb2 drives rapid Ca 2+ -dependent synchronous neurotransmission, whereas the structurally homologous SNARE protein VAMP4 selectively maintains bulk Ca 2+ -dependent asynchronous release. At inhibitory nerve terminals, up- or downregulation of VAMP4 causes a correlated change in asynchronous release. Biochemically, VAMP4 forms a stable complex with SNAREs syntaxin-1 and SNAP-25 that does not interact with complexins or synaptotagmin-1, proteins essential for synchronous neurotransmission. Optical imaging of individual synapses indicates that trafficking of VAMP4 and syb2 show minimal overlap. Taken together, these findings suggest that VAMP4 and syb2 diverge functionally, traffic independently and support distinct forms of neurotransmission. These results provide molecular insight into how synapses diversify their release properties by taking advantage of distinct synaptic vesicle-associated SNAREs.
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