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J Physiol. 2003 Feb 1;546(Pt 3):691-9.

Glycinergic mIPSCs in mouse and rat brainstem auditory nuclei: modulation by ruthenium red and the role of calcium stores.

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Synaptic Structure and Function Group, Division of Neuroscience, John Curtin School of Medical Research, Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200, Australia.


Spontaneous miniature inhibitory postsynaptic currents (mIPSCs) recorded in central neurons are usually highly variable in amplitude due to many factors such as intrinsic postsynaptic channel fluctuations at each release site, site-to-site variability between release sites, electrotonic attenuation due to variable dendritic locations of synapses, and the possibility of synchronous multivesicular release. A detailed knowledge of these factors is essential for the interpretation of mIPSC amplitude distributions and mean quantal size. We have studied glycinergic mIPSCs in two auditory brainstem nuclei, the rat anteroventral cochlear nucleus (AVCN) and the mouse medial nucleus of the trapezoid body (MNTB). Our previous results have demonstrated the location of glycinergic synapses on these neurons to be somatic, thus avoiding electrotonic complications. Spontaneous glycinergic mIPSCs were recorded from AVCN and MNTB neurons in brainstem slices, in the presence of TTX to block action potentials, and 6-cyano-7-nitroquinoxaline-2, 3-dione, (+/-)-2-amino-5-phosphonopentanoic acid and bicuculline to block glutamatergic and GABAergic synaptic currents. Ruthenium red (RuR), which was used to increase the frequency of mIPSCs, significantly changed the shape of most (90 %) mIPSC amplitude distributions by increasing the proportion of large-amplitude mIPSCs. The possibility was investigated (following previous evidence at GABAergic synapses) that large-amplitude glycinergic mIPSCs are due to synchronous multivesicular release initiated by presynaptic calcium sparks from ryanodine-sensitive calcium stores. Interval analysis of mIPSCs indicated that the number of potentially undetected (asynchrony < 0.5 ms) multivesicular mIPSCs was low in comparison with the number of large-amplitude mIPSCs. Ryanodine, thapsigargin and calcium-free perfusate did not reduce the frequency of large-amplitude mIPSCs (> 150 pA), arguing against a significant role for presynaptic calcium stores. Our results support previous evidence suggesting that RuR increases miniature postsynaptic current (mSC) frequency by a mechanism that does not involve presynaptic calcium stores. Our results also indicate that at glycinergic synapses in the AVCN and MNTB, site-to-site variability in mIPSC amplitude, rather than multivesicular release, is a major factor underlying the large range of amplitudes of glycinergic mIPSCs.

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