Background: The localization of glutamate receptors is essential for the formation and plasticity of excitatory synapses. These receptors cluster opposite neurotransmitter release sites of glutamatergic neurons, but these release sites have heterogeneous structural and functional properties. At the Drosophila neuromuscular junction, receptors expressed in a single postsynaptic cell are confronted with an array of hundreds of apposed active zones. Hence, this is an ideal preparation for the investigation of whether receptor clustering is sensitive to the morphological and physiological properties of the apposed active zones.
Results: To investigate the relationship between the localization of glutamate receptors and the properties of the apposed active zones, we investigated receptor localization in mutants in which receptors are limited. We find that receptors are not uniformly distributed opposite the full array of active zones but that some active zones have a disproportionately large share of receptors as assayed by receptor levels and response to transmitter. The active zones at which receptors preferentially cluster are larger and have a higher neurotransmitter release probability than the average active zone. We find a similar relationship between glutamate receptor clusters and active-zone size at wild-type synapses.
Conclusions: When confronted with an array of active zones, glutamate receptors preferentially cluster opposite the largest and most physiologically active sites. These results suggest an activity-dependent matching of pre- and postsynaptic function at the level of a single active zone.
Copyright 2004 Elsevier Ltd.