Synaptic-like vesicles and candidate transduction channels in mechanosensory terminals

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
15 Downloads (Pure)


This article summarises progress to date over an exciting and very enjoyable first 15 years of collaboration with Bob Banks. Our collaboration began when I contacted him with (to me) an unexpected observation that a dye used to mark recycling synaptic vesicle membrane at efferent terminals also labelled muscle spindle afferent terminals. This observation led to the re-discovery of a system of small clear vesicles present in all vertebrate primary mechanosensory nerve terminals. These synaptic-like vesicles (SLVs) have been, and continue to be, the major focus of our work. This article describes our characterisation of the properties and functional significance of these SLVs, combining our complementary skills: Bob's technical expertise and encyclopaedic knowledge of mechanosensation with my experience of synaptic vesicles and the development of the styryl pyridinium dyes, of which the most widely used is FM1-43. On the way we have found that SLVs seem to be part of a constitutive glutamate secretory system necessary to maintain the stretch-sensitivity of spindle endings. The glutamate activates a highly unusual glutamate receptor linked to phospholipase D activation, which we have termed the PLD-mGluR. It has a totally distinct pharmacology first described in the hippocampus nearly 20 years ago but, like the SLVs that were first described over 50 years ago, has since been little researched. Yet, our evidence and literature searches suggest this glutamate/SLV/PLD-mGluR system is a ubiquitous feature of mechanosensory endings and, at least for spindles, is essential for maintaining mechanosensory function. This article summarises how this system integrates with the classical model of mechanosensitive channels in spindles and other mechanosensory nerve terminals, including hair follicle afferents and baroreceptors controlling blood pressure. Finally, in this time when there is an imperative to show translational relevance, I describe how this fascinating system might actually be a useful therapeutic drug target for clinical conditions such as hypertension and muscle spasticity. This has been a fascinating 15-year journey in collaboration with Bob who, as well as having an astute scientific mind, is also a great enthusiast, motivator and friend. I hope this exciting and enjoyable journey will continue well into the future.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)194-213
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Anatomy
Issue number2
Early online date14 Jul 2015
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2015

Bibliographical note

I would like to thank the Medical Research Council for funding our work from 2007 to 2010 (G0601253), SULSA and Eli Lilly for support to Sonia Watson from 2010 to 2014, and Tenovus Scotland for current support to Karen Thompson.


  • baroreceptors
  • glutamate
  • lanceolate endings
  • mechanosensory terminal
  • metabotropic glutamate receptor
  • muscle spindle
  • synaptic-like vesicles


Dive into the research topics of 'Synaptic-like vesicles and candidate transduction channels in mechanosensory terminals'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this