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Neuron. 1999 Jun;23(2):399-409.

Released fraction and total size of a pool of immediately available transmitter quanta at a calyx synapse.

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Max-Planck-Institut für biophysikalische Chemie, Abteilung Membranbiophysik, Göttingen, Germany.


The size of a pool of readily releasable vesicles at a giant brainstem synapse, the calyx of Held, was probed with three independent approaches. Using simultaneous pre- and postsynaptic whole-cell recordings, two forms of presynaptic Ca2+ stimuli were applied in rapid succession: uncaging of Ca2+ by flash photolysis and the opening of voltage-gated Ca2+ channels. The ensuing transmitter release showed a nearly complete cross-inhibition between the two stimuli, indicating the depletion of a limited pool of about 700 transmitter quanta. The pool size was confirmed in experiments using enhanced extracellular Ca2+ concentrations, as well as short, high-frequency stimulus trains. The results reveal a surprisingly large pool of functionally available vesicles, of which a fraction of about 0.2 is released by a single presynaptic action potential under physiological conditions.

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