Synaptic short-term plasticity is a key regulator of neuronal communication and is controlled via various mechanisms. A well established property of mossy fiber to CA3 pyramidal cell synapses is the extensive short-term facilitation during high-frequency bursts. We investigated the mechanisms governing facilitation using a combination of whole-cell electrophysiological recordings, electrical minimal stimulation, and random-access two-photon microscopy in acute mouse hippocampal slices. Two distinct presynaptic mechanisms were involved in short-term facilitation, with their relative contribution dependent on extracellular calcium concentration. The synchronization of multivesicular release was observed during trains of facilitating EPSCs recorded in 1.2 mM external Ca(2+) ([Ca(2+)]e). Indeed, covariance analysis revealed a gradual augmentation in quantal size during trains of EPSCs, and application of the low-affinity glutamate receptor antagonist γ-D-glutamylglycine showed an increase in cleft glutamate concentration during paired-pulse stimulation. Whereas synchronization of multivesicular release contributed to the facilitation in 1.2 mM [Ca(2+)]e, variance-mean analysis showed that recruitment of more release sites (N) was likely to account for the larger facilitation observed in 2.5 mM [Ca(2+)]e. Furthermore, this increase in N could be promoted by calcium microdomains of heterogeneous amplitudes observed in single mossy fiber boutons. Our findings suggest that the combination of multivesicular release and the recruitment of additional release sites act together to increase glutamate release during burst activity. This is supported by the compartmentalized spatial profile of calcium elevations in boutons and helps to expand the dynamic range of mossy fibers information transfer.
Keywords: mossy fiber; multivesicular release; presynaptic calcium; short-term facilitation.
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