Postsynaptic synucleins mediate vesicular exocytosis of endocannabinoids
Two seemingly unrelated questions have long motivated studies in neuroscience: How are endocannabinoids, among the most powerful modulators of synaptic transmission, released from neurons? What are the physiological functions of synucleins, key contributors to Parkinson's Disease? Here, we report an unexpected convergence of these two questions: Endocannabinoids are released via vesicular exocytosis from postsynaptic neurons by a synuclein-dependent mechanism. Specifically, we find that
... of all synucleins selectively blocks all endocannabinoid-dependent synaptic plasticity; this block is reversed by postsynaptic expression of wildtype but not of mutant α-synuclein. Loading postsynaptic neurons with endocannabinoids via patch-pipette dialysis suppressed presynaptic neurotransmitter release in wildtype but not in synuclein-deficient neurons, suggesting that the synuclein deletion blocks endocannabinoid release. Direct optical monitoring of endocannabinoid release confirmed the requirement of synucleins. Given the role of synucleins in vesicular exocytosis, the requirement for synucleins in endocannabinoid release indicates that endocannabinoids are secreted via exocytosis. Consistent with this hypothesis, postsynaptic expression of tetanus-toxin light chain, which cleaves synaptobrevin SNAREs, also blocked endocannabinoid-dependent plasticity and release. The unexpected finding that endocannabinoids are released via synuclein-dependent exocytosis assigns a function to synucleins and resolves a longstanding puzzle of how neurons release endocannabinoids to induce synaptic plasticity.