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The Brain & the Actions of Cocaine, Opiates, and Marijuana

5: Dopamine neurotransmission

Dopamine neurotransmission

Using the close-up of a synapse, continue using dopamine for your example of synaptic function. Explain that it is synthesized in the nerve terminal and packaged in vesicles. Reiterate the steps in neurotransmission. Show how the vesicle fuses with the membrane and releases dopamine. The dopamine molecules can then bind to a dopamine receptor (in blue). After the dopamine binds, it comes off the receptor and is removed from the synaptic cleft by uptake pumps (also proteins) (in red) that reside on the terminal. This process is important so that not too much dopamine is left in the synaptic cleft at any one time. Also point out that there is a neighboring neuron, which releases another compound called a neuromodulator. In this case it is an "endorphin" (blue flying saucers). Endorphins bind to opiate receptors (in green) which reside on the post-synaptic cell or in some cases on the terminals of other neurons (this is not shown so it must be pointed out). The endorphins are destroyed by enzymes rather than removed by uptake pumps.

This page was last updated January 2007