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Biophys J. 1997 Apr;72(4):1595-606.

Synaptic transmission at visualized sympathetic boutons: stochastic interaction between acetylcholine and its receptors.

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Department of Physiology, University of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.


Excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs) were recorded with loose patch electrodes placed over visualized boutons on the surface of rat pelvic ganglion cells. At 34 degrees C the time to peak of the EPSC was about 0.7 ms, and a single exponential described the declining phase with a time constant of about 4.0 ms; these times were not correlated with changes in the amplitude of the EPSC. The amplitude-frequency histogram of the EPSC at individual boutons was well described by a single Gaussian-distribution that possessed a variance similar to that of the electrical noise. Nonstationary fluctuation analysis of the EPSCs at a bouton indicated that about 120 ACh receptor channels were available beneath boutons for interaction with a quantum of ACh. The characteristics of these EPSCs were compared with the results of Monte Carlo simulations of the quantal release of 9000 acetylcholine (ACh) molecules onto receptor patches of density 1400 microns-2 and 0.41 micron diameter, using a kinetic scheme of interaction between ACh and the receptors similar to that observed at the neuromuscular junction. The simulated EPSC generated in this way had temporal characteristics similar to those of the experimental EPSC when either the diffusion of the ACh is slowed or allowance is made for a finite period of transmitter release from the bouton. The amplitude of the simulated EPSC then exhibited stochastic fluctuations similar to those of the experimental EPSC.

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