The accepted theory of vesicular release of neurotransmitter posits that only a single vesicle per synapse can fuse with the membrane following action potential invasion, and this exocytotic event is limited to the ultrastructurally defined presynaptic active zone. Neither of these dictums is universally true. At certain synapses, more than a single vesicle can be released per action potential, and there is growing evidence that neuronal exocytosis can occur from sites that are unremarkable in electron micrographs. The first discrepancy extends the dynamic range of synapses, whereas the second enables faster and more robust chemical transmission at sites distant from morphologically defined synapses. Taken together, these attributes expand the capabilities of cellular communication in the nervous system.
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