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J Neurosci. 2013 May 8;33(19):8144-58. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5062-12.2013.

Amperometric resolution of a prespike stammer and evoked phases of fast release from retinal bipolar cells.

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Yale University School of Medicine, Department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology, New Haven, Connecticut 06520, USA.


The neurotransmitter glutamate is used by most neurons in the brain to activate a multitude of different types of glutamate receptors and transporters involved in fast and relatively slower signaling. Synaptic ribbons are large presynaptic structures found in neurons involved in vision, balance, and hearing, which use a large number of glutamate-filled synaptic vesicles to meet their signaling demands. To directly measure synaptic vesicle release events, the ribbon-type presynaptic terminals of goldfish retinal bipolar cells were coaxed to release a false transmitter that could be monitored with amperometry by placing the carbon fiber directly on the larger synaptic terminal. Spontaneous secretion events formed a unimodal charge distribution, but single spike properties were heterogeneous. Larger events rose exponentially without interruption (τ ∼ 30 μs), and smaller events exhibited a stammer in their rising phase that is interpreted as a brief pause in pore dilation, a characteristic commonly associated with large dense core granule fusion pores. These events were entirely Ca(2+)-dependent. Holding the cells at -60 mV halted spontaneous release; and when the voltage was stepped to >-40 mV, secretion ensued. When stepping the voltage to 0 mV, novel kinetic phases of vesicle recruitment were revealed. Approximately 14 vesicles were released per ribbon in two kinetic phases with time constants of 1.5 and 16 ms, which are proposed to represent different primed states within the population of docked vesicles.

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