Vertebrate organisms adapt to a continuously changing environment by regulating the strength of synaptic connections between brain cells. Excitatory synapses are believed to increase their strength by vesicular insertion of transmitter glutamate receptors into the postsynaptic plasma membrane. These vesicles, however, have never been demonstrated or characterized. For the first time, we show the presence of small vesicles in postsynaptic spines, often closely adjacent to the plasma membrane and PSD (postsynaptic density). We demonstrate that they harbor vesicle-associated membrane protein 2 (VAMP2/synaptobrevin-2) and glutamate receptor subunit 1 (GluA1). Disrupting VAMP2 by tetanus toxin treatment reduces the concentration of GluA1 in the postsynaptic plasma membrane. GluA1/VAMP2-containing vesicles, but not GluA2/VAMP2-vesicles, are concentrated in postsynaptic spines relative to dendrites. Our results indicate that small postsynaptic vesicles containing GluA1 are inserted directly into the spine plasma membrane through a VAMP2-dependent mechanism.
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