Weak endogenous Ca2+ buffering supports sustained synaptic transmission by distinct mechanisms in rod and cone photoreceptors in salamander retina

Physiol Rep. 2015 Sep;3(9):e12567. doi: 10.14814/phy2.12567.


Differences in synaptic transmission between rod and cone photoreceptors contribute to different response kinetics in rod- versus cone-dominated visual pathways. We examined Ca(2+) dynamics in synaptic terminals of tiger salamander photoreceptors under conditions that mimicked endogenous buffering to determine the influence on kinetically and mechanistically distinct components of synaptic transmission. Measurements of IC l(Ca) confirmed that endogenous Ca(2+) buffering is equivalent to ~0.05 mmol/L EGTA in rod and cone terminals. Confocal imaging showed that with such buffering, depolarization stimulated large, spatially unconstrained [Ca(2+)] increases that spread throughout photoreceptor terminals. We calculated immediately releasable pool (IRP) size and release efficiency in rods by deconvolving excitatory postsynaptic currents and presynaptic Ca(2+) currents. Peak efficiency of ~0.2 vesicles/channel was similar to that of cones (~0.3 vesicles/channel). Efficiency in both cell types was not significantly affected by using weak endogenous Ca(2+) buffering. However, weak Ca(2+) buffering speeded Ca(2+)/calmodulin (CaM)-dependent replenishment of vesicles to ribbons in both rods and cones, thereby enhancing sustained release. In rods, weak Ca(2+) buffering also amplified sustained release by enhancing CICR and CICR-stimulated release of vesicles at nonribbon sites. By contrast, elevating [Ca(2+)] at nonribbon sites in cones with weak Ca(2+) buffering and by inhibiting Ca(2+) extrusion did not trigger additional release, consistent with the notion that exocytosis from cones occurs exclusively at ribbons. The presence of weak endogenous Ca(2+) buffering in rods and cones facilitates slow, sustained exocytosis by enhancing Ca(2+)/CaM-dependent replenishment of ribbons in both rods and cones and by stimulating nonribbon release triggered by CICR in rods.

Keywords: Calcium; photoreceptor; retina; ribbon synapse; synaptic transmission.