Quantal transmitter secretion from myocytes loaded with acetylcholine

Abstract

IT is well known that transmitter secretion requires specialized secretory organdies, the synaptic vesicles, for the packaging, storage and exocytotic release of the transmitter1,2. Here we report that when acetylcholine (ACh) is loaded into an isolated Xenopus myocyte, there is spontaneous quantal release of ACh from the myocyte which results in activation of its own surface ACh channels and the appearance of membrane currents resembling miniature endplate currents. This myocyte secretion probably reflects Ca2+-regulated exocytosis of ACh-filled cytoplasmic compartments. Furthermore, step depolarization of the myocyte membrane triggers evoked ACh release from the myocyte with a weak excitation–secretion coupling. These findings suggest that quantal transmitter secretion does not require secretory pathways unique to neurons and that the essence of presynaptic differentiation may reside in the provision of transmitter supply and modification of the preexisting secretion pathway.

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