Presynaptic nerve terminals are highly specialized vesicle-trafficking machines. Neurotransmitter release from these terminals is sustained by constant local recycling of synaptic vesicles independent from the neuronal cell body. This independence places significant constraints on maintenance of synaptic protein complexes and scaffolds. Key events during the synaptic vesicle cycle—such as exocytosis and endocytosis—require formation and disassembly of protein complexes. This extremely dynamic environment poses unique challenges for proteostasis at synaptic terminals. Therefore, it is not surprising that subtle alterations in synaptic vesicle cycle-associated proteins directly or indirectly contribute to pathophysiology seen in several neurologic and psychiatric diseases. In contrast to the increasing number of examples in which presynaptic dysfunction causes neurologic symptoms or cognitive deficits associated with multiple brain disorders, synaptic vesicle-recycling machinery remains an underexplored drug target. In addition, irrespective of the involvement of presynaptic function in the disease process, presynaptic machinery may also prove to be a viable therapeutic target because subtle alterations in the neurotransmitter release may counter disease mechanisms, correct, or compensate for synaptic communication deficits without the need to interfere with postsynaptic receptor signaling. In this article, we will overview critical properties of presynaptic release machinery to help elucidate novel presynaptic avenues for the development of therapeutic strategies against neurologic and neuropsychiatric disorders.
This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health National Institute of Mental Health [Grant MH066198].
- Copyright © 2017 by The American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics