Streams of action potentials or long depolarizations evoke a massive exocytosis of transmitters and peptides from the surface of dendrites, axons and cell bodies of different neuron types. Such mode of exocytosis is known as extrasynaptic for occurring without utilization of synaptic structures. Most transmitters and all peptides can be released extrasynaptically. Neurons may discharge their contents with relative independence from the axon, soma and dendrites. Extrasynaptic exocytosis takes fractions of a second in varicosities or minutes in the soma or dendrites, but its effects last from seconds to hours. Unlike synaptic exocytosis, which is well localized, extrasynaptic exocytosis is diffuse and affects neuronal circuits, glia and blood vessels. Molecules that are liberated may reach extrasynaptic receptors microns away. The coupling between excitation and exocytosis follows a multistep mechanism, different from that at synapses, but similar to that for the release of hormones. The steps from excitation to exocytosis have been studied step by step for the vital transmitter serotonin in leech Retzius neurons. The events leading to serotonin exocytosis occur similarly for the release of other transmitters and peptides in central and peripheral neurons. Extrasynaptic exocytosis occurs commonly onto glial cells, which react by releasing the same or other transmitters. In the last section, we discuss how illumination of the retina evokes extrasynaptic release of dopamine and ATP. Dopamine contributes to light-adaptation; ATP activates glia, which mediates an increase in blood flow and oxygenation. A proper understanding of the workings of the nervous system requires the understanding of extrasynaptic communication.
Última actualización: 09/12/2022