Quantitative aspects of transmitter release
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The opener-stretcher motor neuron in crayfish makes 50 endings upon each of 1200 muscle fibers . We have calculated the quantal content of junctional potentials produced by individual terminals and by the whole cell at various physiological frequencies . The results show that when the motor neuron is active at 20 impulses/second, it releases 50 quanta/ impulse per muscle fiber, or a total of 4 .5 X 109 quanta/hr. These figures are similar to those for vertebrate muscles per fiber, but larger for the entire neuron because the opener motor unit is so large. On the basis that the quanta correspond to synaptic vesicles each containing 103-104 molecules of transmitter, the release rate must be around 10 -11 mole/hr. This value is within an order of magnitude of the release figures obtained for mammalian neurons by collecting transmitter in perfusates, but it is far lower than the value reported for a crustacean inhibitory neuron. If the membrane materials surrounding each vesicle were lost in the release process, the replacement synthesis would involve 24 mm , of membrane/ hr. We conclude that the metabolic load in terms of transmitter synthesis is probably sustainable, but that the release mechanism must operate in such a way that vesicle membrane materials are neither lost nor incorporated into the terminal membrane .