In the CNS (central nervous system), nerve cells communicate by transmitting signals from one to the next across chemical synapses. Electrical signals trigger controlled secretion of neurotransmitter by exocytosis of SV (synaptic vesicles) at the presynaptic site. Neurotransmitters diffuse across the synaptic cleft, activate receptor channels in the receiving neuron at the postsynaptic site, and thereby elicit a new electrical signal. Repetitive stimulation should result in fast depletion of fusion-competent SVs, given their limited number in the presynaptic bouton. Therefore, to support repeated rounds of release, a fast trafficking cycle is required that couples exocytosis and compensatory endocytosis. During this exo-endocytic cycle, a defined stoichiometry of SV proteins has to be preserved, that is, membrane proteins have to be sorted precisely. However, how this sorting is accomplished on a molecular level is poorly understood. In the present chapter we review recent findings regarding the molecular composition of SVs and the mechanisms that sort SV proteins during compensatory endocytosis. We identify self-assembly of SV components and individual cargo recognition by sorting adaptors as major mechanisms for maintenance of the SV protein complement.

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