PMID: 39079Apr 1, 1979

Freeze-fracture studies of frog neuromuscular junctions during intense release of neurotransmitter. I. Effects of black widow spider venom and Ca2+-free solutions on the structure of the active zone

The Journal of Cell Biology
B CeccarelliW P Hurlbut


Black widow spider venom (BWSV) was applied to frog nerve-muscle preparations bathed in Ca2+-containing, or Ca2+-free, solutions and the neuromuscular junctions were studied by the freeze-fracture technique. When BWSV was applied for short periods (10-15 min) in the presence of Ca2+, numerous dimples (P face) or protuberances (E face) appeared on the presynaptive membrane and approximately 86% were located immediately adjacent to the double rows of large intramembrane particles that line the active zones. When BWSV was applied for 1 h in the presence of Ca2+, the nerve terminals were depleted of vesicles, few dimples or protuberances were seen, and the active zones were almost completely disorganized. The P face of the presynaptic membrane still contained large intramembrane particles. When muscles were soaked for 2-3 h in Ca2+-free solutions, the active zones became disorganized, and isolated remnants of the double rows of particles were found scattered over the P face of the presynaptic membrane. When BWSV was applied to these preparations, dimples or protuberances occurred almost exclusively alongside disorganized active zones or alongside dispersed fragments of the active zones. The loss of synaptic vesicles from terminals ...Continue Reading


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