Ultrastructural evidence of piecemeal degranulation in large dense-core vesicles of brain neurons

E. Crivellato, B. Nico, D. Ribatti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Large dense-core vesicles (LDCV) are a group of neuronal secretory organelles with different size and characteristically condensed morphology. LDCV release their specific cargo by regulated exocytosis, either in the form of "full fusion" or "kiss-and-run" exocytosis. In this paper, we provide ultrastructural evidence indicative of a slow and particulate mode of secretion from LDCV, called piecemeal degranulation (PMD). A number of LDCV in the nerve boutons of mouse brain presented marked increase in their size accompanied by reduction and also disappearance of content material. Residual secretory constituents in altered LDCV displayed eroded marginated patterns, leading to eccentric "haloed" morphologies. Remarkably, altered LDCV never appeared to be fused with each other or with the nerve plasma membrane. Very small vesicles, empty or apparently loaded with the same material making-up the LDCV content, could be seen near or attached to LDCV and the plasma membrane. First described in basophils, mast cells and eosinophils, PMD has recently been recognized in various neuro-endocrine cells, like adrenal chromaffin cells and endocrine cells of the gastro-intestinal epithelia. Here we suggest that PMD may be a hitherto unrecognized pathway of neuron secretion. It would represent the morphological correlate of a long-lasting and low-level process of neuro-transmitter release. It extends the patterns of neuron secretion and possibly opens new perspectives in understanding neuron plasticity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-34
Number of pages10
JournalAnatomy and Embryology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2005


  • Brain
  • Electron microscopy
  • Exocytosis
  • Large dense-core vesicle
  • Mouse
  • Piecemeal degranulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology
  • Embryology


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