Vesicular zinc regulates the Ca2+ sensitivity of a subpopulation of presynaptic vesicles at hippocampal mossy fiber terminals

J Neurosci. 2011 Dec 14;31(50):18251-65. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4164-11.2011.


Synaptic vesicles segregate into functionally diverse subpopulations within presynaptic terminals, yet there is no information about how this may occur. Here we demonstrate that a distinct subgroup of vesicles within individual glutamatergic, mossy fiber terminals contain vesicular zinc that is critical for the rapid release of a subgroup of synaptic vesicles during increased activity in mice. In particular, vesicular zinc dictates the Ca(2+) sensitivity of release during high-frequency firing. Intense synaptic activity alters the subcellular distribution of zinc in presynaptic terminals and decreases the number of zinc-containing vesicles. Zinc staining also appears in endosomes, an observation that is consistent with the preferential replenishment of zinc-enriched vesicles by bulk endocytosis. We propose that functionally diverse vesicle pools with unique membrane protein composition support different modes of transmission and are generated via distinct recycling pathways.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials / physiology
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Miniature Postsynaptic Potentials / physiology
  • Mossy Fibers, Hippocampal / metabolism*
  • Mossy Fibers, Hippocampal / ultrastructure
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Synapses / metabolism*
  • Synapses / ultrastructure
  • Synaptic Vesicles / metabolism*
  • Synaptic Vesicles / ultrastructure
  • Zinc / metabolism*


  • Glutamic Acid
  • Zinc
  • Calcium