Assessing accurate sizes of synaptic vesicles in nerve terminals

Seongjai Kim, Harold L. Atwood, Robin L. Cooper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Chemical synaptic transmission occurs when vesicles within a presynaptic neuron fuse to the membrane and release their neurotransmitter content into the synaptic cleft, eliciting a response in the postsynaptic cell. If concentration of neurotransmitter is the same in all synaptic vesicles, the volume of the vesicle determines how much transmitter is released. Thus, variation in vesicular volume may contribute to observed variance of synaptic quantal unit size. The present study provides an approach to more fully and accurately characterize the dimensions of synaptic vesicles within a population containing varied sizes of vesicles. The methodology can be applied in a wide range of stereological problems. The approach characterizes the distribution of vesicle sizes within a population and provides a means to assess effects of experimental manipulations on vesicle dimensions. The mathematical treatments to obtain the true distribution of vesicle sizes involve extraction of the observed distribution from an enlarged population containing smaller vesicle diameters produced by sectioning of the specimens. A FORTRAN program is provided. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-217
Number of pages9
JournalBrain Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 22 2000

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Mr. Leo Marin for tissue processing and photomicrographs of tissue, and anonymous referees for their helpful suggestions that improved the quality of the manuscript. H.L.A. and R.L.C. have been partially supported by NSF grant IBN-9808631 (RLC) and MRC-Canada (HLA).


  • Algebraic system
  • Nerve terminal
  • Numerical integration
  • Stereology
  • Synapse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology


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