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The Small and Dynamic Pre-primed Pool at the Release Site; A Useful Concept to Understand Release Probability and Short-Term Synaptic Plasticity?

Review article
Authors B. Gustafsson
R. Ma
E. Hanse
Published in Frontiers in Synaptic Neuroscience
Volume 11
ISSN 1663-3563
Publication year 2019
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Physiology
Language en
Keywords hippocampus, synapse, nanomodule, release probability, plasticity, glutamate, vesicle, release site, glutamatergic synapses, neurotransmitter concentration, multivesicular, release, quantal variability, ca2+ channels, area ca1, ampa, facilitation, vesicles, nonsaturation
Subject categories Neurosciences


Advanced imaging techniques have revealed that synapses contain nanomodules in which pre-and post-synaptic molecules are brought together to form an integrated subsynaptic component for vesicle release and transmitter reception. Based on data from an electrophysiological study of ours in which release from synapses containing a single nanomodule was induced by brief 50 Hz trains using minimal stimulation, and on data from such imaging studies, we present a possible modus operandi of such a nanomodule. We will describe the techniques and tools used to obtain and analyze the electrophysiological data from single CA3-CA1 hippocampal synapses from the neonatal rat brain. This analysis leads to the proposal that a nanomodule, despite containing a number of release locations, operates as a single release site, releasing at most a single vesicle at a time. In this nanomodule there appears to be two separate sets of release locations, one set that is responsible for release in response to the first few action potentials and another set that produces the release thereafter. The data also suggest that vesicles at the first set of release locations are primed by synaptic inactivity lasting seconds, this synaptic inactivity also resulting in a large heterogeneity in the values for vesicle release probability among the synapses. The number of vesicles being primed at this set of release locations prior to the arrival of an action potential is small (0-3) and varies from train to train. Following the first action potential, this heterogeneity in vesicle release probability largely vanishes in a release-independent manner, shaping a variation in paired-pulse plasticity among the synapses. After the first few action potentials release is produced from the second set of release locations, and is given by vesicles that have been recruited after the onset of synaptic activity. This release depends on the number of such release locations and the recruitment to such a location. The initial heterogeneity in vesicle release probability, its disappearance after a single action potential, and variation in the recruitment to the second set of release locations are instrumental in producing the heterogeneity in short-term synaptic plasticity among these synapses, and can be seen as means to create differential dynamics within a synapse population.

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