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J Physiol. 1998 Nov 1;512 ( Pt 3):723-9.

Facilitation of the presynaptic calcium current at an auditory synapse in rat brainstem.

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Ion Channel Group, Department of Cell Physiology and Pharmacology, University of Leicester, PO Box 138, Leicester LE1 9HN, UK.


1. The presynaptic calcium current (IpCa) was recorded from the calyx of Held in rat brainstem slices using the whole-cell patch clamp technique. 2. Tetanic activation of IpCa by 1 ms depolarizing voltage steps markedly enhanced the amplitude of IpCa. Using a paired pulse protocol, the second (test) response was facilitated with inter-pulse intervals of less than 100 ms. The facilitation was greater at shorter intervals and was maximal (about 20%) at intervals of 5-10 ms. 3. When the test pulse duration was extended, the facilitation was revealed as an increased rate of IpCa activation. From the current-voltage relationship measured at 1 ms from onset, facilitation could be described by a shift in the half-activation voltage of about -4 mV. 4. IpCa facilitation was not attenuated when guanosine-5'-O-(3-thiotriphosphate) (GTPgammaS) or guanosine-5'-O-(2-thiodiphosphate) (GDPbetaS) was included in the patch pipette, suggesting that G-proteins are not involved in this phenomenon. 5. On reducing [Ca2+]o, the magnitude of facilitation diminished proportionally to the amplitude of IpCa. Replacement of [Ca2+]o by Ba2+ or Na+, or buffering of [Ca2+]i with EGTA or BAPTA attenuated IpCa facilitation. 6. We conclude that repetitive presynaptic activity can facilitate the presynaptic Ca2+ current through a Ca2+-dependent mechanism. This mechanism would be complementary to the action of residual Ca2+ on the exocytotic machinery in producing activity-dependent facilitation of synaptic responses.

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