1. Synapsin I, a major synaptic vesicle (SV)-associated phosphoprotein, is involved in the regulation of neurotransmitter release and synapse formation. By binding to both phospholipid and protein components of SV with high affinity and in a phosphorylation-dependent fashion, synapsin I is believed to cluster SV and to attach them to the actin-based cytoskeleton of the nerve terminal. 2. In the present study we have investigated the kinetic aspects of synapsin I-SV interactions and the mechanisms of their modulation by ionic strength and site-specific phosphorylation, using fluorescence resonance energy transfer between suitable fluorophores linked to synapsin I and to the membrane bilayer. 3. The binding of synapsin I to the phospholipid and protein components of SV has fast kinetics: mean time constants ranged between 1 and 4 s for association and 9 and 11 s for ionic strength-induced dissociation at 20°C. The interaction with the phospholipid component consists predominantly of a hydrophobic binding with the core of the membrane which may account for the membrane stabilizing effect of synapsin I. 4. Phosphorylation of synapsin I by either SV-associated or purified Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II(CaMPKII) inhibited the association rate and the binding to SV at steady state by acting on the ionic strength-sensitive component of the binding. When dephosphorylated synapsin I was previously bound to SV, exposure of SV to Ca2+/calmodulin in the presence of ATP triggered a prompt dissociation of synapsin I with a time constant similar to that of ionic strength-induced dissociation. In conclusion, the reversible interactions between synapsin I and SV are highly regulated by site-specific phosphorylation and have kinetics of the same order of magnitude as the kinetics of SV recycling determined in mammalian neurons under comparable temperature conditions. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that synapsin I associates with, and dissociates from, SV during the exo-endocytotic cycle. The on-vesicle phosphorylation of synapsin I by the SV-associated CaMPKII, and the subsequent dissociation of the protein from the vesicle membrane, though not involved in mediating exocytosis of primed vesicles evoked by a single stimulus, may represent a prompt and efficient mechanism for the modulation of neurotransmitter release and presynaptic plasticity.
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