Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Roger Janz, Ph.D

Committee Member

Ruth Heidelberger, MD/Ph.D

Committee Member

John O'Brien, Ph.D

Committee Member

Jeff Frost, Ph.D

Committee Member

Vasanthi Jayaraman, Ph.D


Protein-Protein Interactions That Regulate Neurotransmitter Release from Retinal Ribbon Synapses Photoreceptors and bipolar cells in the retina form specialized chemical synapses called ribbon synapses. This type of synapse differs physiologically from “conventional” chemical synapses. While “conventional” synapses exocytose neurotransmitter-filled vesicles in an all-or-none fashion in response to an action potential, a retinal ribbon synapse can release neurotransmitter tonically (sustained) in response to graded changes in membrane potential or phasically (transient) in response to a large change in membrane potential.

Synaptic vesicle exocytosis is a tightly controlled process involving many protein-protein interactions. Therefore, it is likely that the dissimilarity in the release properties of retinal ribbon synapses and conventional synapses is the result of molecular differences between the two synapse types. Consistent with this idea, previous studies have demonstrated that ribbon synapses in the retina do not contain the t-SNARE (target-soluble N-ethylmaleimide-sensitive factor attachment protein receptor) syntaxin 1A that is found in conventional synapses of the nervous system. In contrast, ribbon synapses of the mammalian retina contain the related isoform, syntaxin 3B. Given that SNARE proteins play an important role in neurotransmitter release in conventional synapses, the purpose of this study was to characterize syntaxin 3B in order to elucidate what role this protein plays in neurotransmitter release from retinal ribbon synapses. Using molecular and biochemical techniques, it was demonstrated that syntaxin 3B is a binding partner of several presynaptic proteins that play a important role in synaptic vesicle exocytosis from retinal ribbon synapses and it is an evolutionarily conserved protein.


syntaxin 3B, retinal ribbon synapses