Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Messaging Machinery
09 July 2014

Messaging Machinery

Inside the human brain, billions of neurons [nerve cells] communicate in an intricate network. To do this, they rely on chemical messengers, known as neurotransmitters, which propagate signals between cells across chemical synapses. Released by one cell, these molecules bind to specific receptors on a receiving neuron to transmit the signal. Pictured is a 3D representation of a synaptic bouton, the cellular compartment responsible for packaging neurotransmitters into membrane sacks, or vesicles, and exporting them out of the cell. Using microscopy and mass spectrometry, researchers have drawn up a detailed picture of this compartment. They identified 300,000 proteins found within the area, 60 of which are depicted in different colours in this diagram – the red tubes represent tubulin filaments, giving structure to the cell, while the white circles are vesicles. Providing new insights into neurotransmitter release, this study offers a tantalising glimpse into the exquisite complexity of the brain’s signalling machinery.

Written by Emmanuelle Briolat

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