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Gratzl, Manfred (1994): Molecular Aspects of Secretory Granule Exocytosis by Neurons and Endocrine Cells. In: Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Vol. 733: S. 223-232


Neuronal communication and endocrine signaling are fundamental for integrating the function of tissues and cells in the body. Hormones released by endocrine cells are transported to the target cells through the circulation. By contrast, transmitter release from neurons occurs at specialized intercellular junctions, the synapses. Nevertheless, the mechanisms by which signal molecules are synthesized, stored, and eventually secreted by neurons and endocrine cells are very similar. Neurons and endocrine cells have in common two different types of secretory organelles, indicating the presence of two distinct secretory pathways. The synaptic vesicles of neurons contain excitatory or inhibitory neurotransmitters, whereas the secretory granules (also referred to as dense core vesicles, because of their electron dense content) are filled with neuropeptides and amines. In endocrine cells, peptide hormones and amines predominate in secretory granules. The function and content of vesicles, which share antigens with synaptic vesicles, are unknown for most endocrine cells. However, in B cells of the pancreatic islet, these vesicles contain GABA, which may be involved in intrainsular signaling.' Exocytosis of both synaptic vesicles and secretory granules is controlled by cytoplasmic calcium. However, the precise mechanisms of the subsequent steps, such as docking of vesicles and fusion of their membranes with the plasma membrane, are still incompletely understood. This contribution summarizes recent observations that elucidate components in neurons and endocrine cells involved in exocytosis. Emphasis is put on the intracellular aspects of the release of secretory granules that recently have been analyzed in detail.