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J Neurosci. 2003 Apr 1;23(7):2618-26.

Synapse density regulates independence at unitary inhibitory synapses.

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Vollum Institute, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Oregon 97201, USA.


Neurotransmitter transporters may promote synapse specificity by limiting spillover between release sites. At GABAergic synapses, transport block prolongs synaptic responses when many inputs are activated, yet it is unclear whether transporters alter signaling by single axons. We found that unitary IPSCs generated by paired recordings between hippocampal interneurons and granule cells could be either prolonged or totally unaffected by block of GABA transporters. This variability was explained by the density of active release sites rather than the number of active sites. Prolongation by transport block required release from multiple sites and was enhanced by repetitive activation. Furthermore, transport-sensitive unitary IPSCs were accelerated when the release probability was reduced, indicating that cross talk prolonged the time course of IPSCs even when transport was intact. Our results suggest that the release site density regulates the degree of cross talk as well as the contribution of transporters to GABA clearance. Thus, interplay between release site density and transporter action determines the independence of unitary inhibitory synapses.

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