UNIT 3.12 Isolation of Synaptic Vesicles

  1. Branch Craige,
  2. Gloria Salazar,
  3. Victor Faundez

Published Online: 1 DEC 2004

DOI: 10.1002/0471143030.cb0312s25

Current Protocols in Cell Biology

Current Protocols in Cell Biology

How to Cite

Craige, B., Salazar, G. and Faundez, V. 2004. Isolation of Synaptic Vesicles. Current Protocols in Cell Biology. 25:3.12:3.12.1–3.12.17.

Author Information

  1. Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 1 DEC 2004
  2. Published Print: NOV 2004


Synaptic vesicles are the most abundant secretory organelle in eukaryotic neural cells. Synaptic vesicles are physically distinct from other membrane-bound organelles because they are small, spherical, and highly uniform in size with a diameter of about 40 nm. Synaptic vesicles also have a characteristically low density because water and phospholipids account for 88% of an individual synaptic vesicle's weight. The homogeneous size and density of the synaptic vesicle are characteristics that are exploited in most synaptic vesicle isolation procedures. Synaptic vesicles are purified by isopycnic/velocity sedimentation and size-based purification schemes. However, protocols differ in the tissue source of vesicles, the way the tissue is homogenized, and the way the vesicles are fractionated. This unit describes two well-characterized and widely used synaptic vesicle isolation procedures that are capable of generating membrane fractions that are 20 to 30 times enriched in synaptic vesicles.