Synaptosome Preparations: Which Procedure Should I Use?

  • Peter R. DunkleyEmail author
  • Phillip J. Robinson
Part of the Neuromethods book series (NM, volume 141)


One of the most extensively used model systems to investigate the functions and the chemical control of the nerve terminal has been the synaptosome. Synaptosomes are pinched-off nerve endings that form by shearing forces during homogenization of neuronal tissue. Depending on the aim of the study, synaptosomes can be used once they are formed within the whole neuronal tissue homogenate, or they can be separated from other subcellular organelles and enriched to various extents, depending on the fractionation procedures adopted. Each procedure varies in the time that it takes and provides synaptosomes with different levels of homogeneity and viability. The major contaminants of synaptosomes that remain after fractionation include neuronal and glial plasma membranes, attached postsynaptic membranes and densities, microsomes, synaptic vesicles, and extra-synaptosomal mitochondria. This chapter documents the most commonly used procedures for making synaptosomes, indicates the most likely contaminants present after each procedure, and assesses the viability of the resulting synaptosomes. This provides researchers with a decision tool to determine which synaptosome preparation procedure best suits the aims of their study.

Key words

Synaptosomes Formation Fractionation Homogeneity Viability 



We would like to thank all of our colleagues who have helped to develop the Percoll gradient procedure for preparation of synaptosomes [9, 11, 26, 30, 67] for their hard work, camaraderie, and intellectual input. The NHMRC of Australia is thanked for past funding of projects arising from the use of synaptosomes.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Biomedical Sciences and Pharmacy, Hunter Medical Research InstituteThe University of NewcastleCallaghanAustralia
  2. 2.Cell Signalling Unit, Children’s Medical Research InstituteThe University of SydneyWentworthvilleAustralia

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