This article reviews our current knowledge of the structure of α spectrins and β spectrins in the brain, as well as their location and expression within neural tissue. We discuss the known protein interactions of brain spectrin isoforms, and then describe results that suggest an important role for spectrin (αSpIIΣ1/βSpIIΣ1) in the Ca2+-regulated release of neurotransmitters. Evidence that supports a role for spectrin in the docking of synaptic vesicles to the presynaptic plasma membrane and as a Ca2+ sensor protein that uanclamps the fusion machinery is desaibed, along with the Casting the Line model, which summarizes the information. We finish with a discussion of the value of spectrin and ankyrin-deficient mouse models in deciphering spectrin function in neural tissue.
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