Multiple stimulation-dependent processes regulate the size of the releasable pool of vesicles

Research paper by Martin Oheim, Dinah Loerke, Walter Stühmer, R. H. Chow

Indexed on: 01 Jan '99Published on: 01 Jan '99Published in: European Biophysics Journal


In neuroendocrine cells and neurones, changes in the size of a limited pool of readily releasable vesicles contribute to the plasticity of secretion. We have studied the dynamic alterations in the size of a near-membrane pool of vesicles in living neuroendocrine cells. Using evanescent wave microscopy we monitored the behaviour of individual secretory vesicles at the plasma membrane. Vesicles undergo sequential transitions between several states of differing fluorescence intensity and mobility. The transitions are reversible, except for the fusion step, and even in nonstimulated conditions the vesicles change states in a dynamic equilibrium. Stimulation selectively speeds up the three forward transitions leading towards exocytosis. Vesicles lose mobility in all three dimensions upon approach of the plasma membrane. Their movement is directed and targeted to the docking fusion sites. Sites of vesicle docking and exocytosis are distributed non-uniformly over the studied “footprint” region of the cell. While some areas are the sites of repeated vesicle docking and fusion, others are completely devoid of spots. Vesicular mobility at the membrane is confined, as if the vesicle were imprisoned in a cage or tethered to a binding site.