Rapid regulation of vesicle priming explains synaptic facilitation despite heterogeneous vesicle: Ca2+ channel distances

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Chemical synaptic transmission relies on the Ca2+-induced fusion of transmitter-laden vesicles whose coupling distance to Ca2+ channels determines synaptic release probability and short-term plasticity, the facilitation or depression of repetitive responses. Here, using electron- and super-resolution microscopy at the Drosophila neuromuscular junction we quantitatively map vesicle:Ca2+ channel coupling distances. These are very heterogeneous, resulting in a broad spectrum of vesicular release probabilities within synapses. Stochastic simulations of transmitter release from vesicles placed according to this distribution revealed strong constraints on short-term plasticity; particularly facilitation was difficult to achieve. We show that postulated facilitation mechanisms operating via activity-dependent changes of vesicular release probability (e.g. by a facilitation fusion sensor) generate too little facilitation and too much variance. In contrast, Ca2+-dependent mechanisms rapidly increasing the number of releasable vesicles reliably reproduce short-term plasticity and variance of synaptic responses. We propose activity-dependent inhibition of vesicle un-priming or release site activation as novel facilitation mechanisms.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere51032
Number of pages48
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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