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J Neurosci. 1998 Jun 1;18(11):4106-18.

Presynaptic recording of quanta from midbrain dopamine neurons and modulation of the quantal size.

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Department of Neurology, Columbia University, New York, New York 10032, USA.


The observation of quantal release from central catecholamine neurons has proven elusive because of the absence of evoked rapid postsynaptic currents. We adapted amperometric methods to observe quantal release directly from axonal varicosities of midbrain dopamine neurons that predominantly contain small synaptic vesicles. Quantal events were elicited by high K+ or alpha-latrotoxin, required extracellular Ca2+, and were abolished by reserpine. The events indicated the release of 3000 molecules over 200 microsec, much smaller and faster events than quanta associated with large dense-core vesicles previously recorded in vertebrate preparations. The number of dopamine molecules per quantum increased as a population to 380% of controls after glial-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) exposure and to 350% of controls after exposure to the dopamine precursor L-dihydroxyphenylalanine (L-DOPA). These results introduce a means to measure directly the number of transmitter molecules released from small synaptic vesicles of CNS neurons. Moreover, quantal size was not an invariant parameter in CNS neurons but could be modulated by neurotrophic factors and altered neurotransmitter synthesis.

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