High-throughput neurotransmission at ribbon synapses of cochlear inner hair cells (IHCs) requires tight coupling of neurotransmitter release and balanced recycling of synaptic vesicles (SVs) as well as rapid restoration of release sites. Here, we examined the role of the adaptor protein AP180 (also known as SNAP91) for IHC synaptic transmission by comparing AP180-knockout (KO) and wild-type mice using high-pressure freezing and electron tomography, confocal microscopy, patch-clamp membrane capacitance measurements and systems physiology. AP180 was found predominantly at the synaptic pole of IHCs. AP180-deficient IHCs had severely reduced SV numbers, slowed endocytic membrane retrieval and accumulated endocytic intermediates near ribbon synapses, indicating that AP180 is required for clathrin-dependent endocytosis and SV reformation in IHCs. Moreover, AP180 deletion led to a high prevalence of SVs in a multi-tethered or docked state after stimulation, a reduced rate of SV replenishment and a hearing impairment. We conclude that, in addition to its role in clathrin recruitment, AP180 contributes to release site clearance in IHCs.This article has an associated First Person interview with the first author of the paper.
Keywords: AP180; Electron tomography; Endocytosis; Exocytosis; Hearing; Membrane capacitance; Ribbon synapse; SNAP91.
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