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Front Synaptic Neurosci. 2013 Jan 11;4:9. doi: 10.3389/fnsyn.2012.00009. eCollection 2012.

Intrinsic variability in Pv, RRP size, Ca(2+) channel repertoire, and presynaptic potentiation in individual synaptic boutons.

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Department of Biochemistry, Weill Cornell Medical College New York, NY, USA ; David Rockefeller Graduate Program, The Rockefeller University New York, NY, USA.


The strength of individual synaptic contacts is considered a key modulator of information flow across circuits. Presynaptically the strength can be parsed into two key parameters: the size of the readily releasable pool (RRP) and the probability that a vesicle in that pool will undergo exocytosis when an action potential fires (Pv). How these variables are controlled and the degree to which they vary across individual nerve terminals is crucial to understand synaptic plasticity within neural circuits. Here we report robust measurements of these parameters in rat hippocampal neurons and their variability across populations of individual synapses. We explore the diversity of presynaptic Ca(2+) channel repertoires and evaluate their effect on synaptic strength at single boutons. Finally, we study the degree to which synapses can be differentially modified by a known potentiator of presynaptic function, forskolin. Our experiments revealed that both Pv and RRP spanned a large range, even for synapses made by the same axon, demonstrating that presynaptic efficacy is governed locally at the single synapse level. Synapses varied greatly in their dependence on N or P/Q type Ca(2+) channels for neurotransmission, but there was no association between specific channel repertoires and synaptic efficacy. Increasing cAMP concentration using forskolin enhanced synaptic transmission in a Ca(2+)-independent manner that was inversely related with a synapse's initial Pv, and independent of its RRP size. We propose a simple model based on the relationship between Pv and calcium entry that can account for the variable potentiation of synapses based on initial probability of vesicle fusion.


exocytosis; imaging; pHluorin; readily releasable pool; release probability; synapse

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