The manner in which presynaptic Ca2+ influx controls the release of neurotransmitter was investigated at the granule cell to Purkinje cell synapse in rat cerebellar slices. Excitatory postsynaptic currents were measured using whole-cell voltage clamp, and changes in presynaptic Ca2+ influx were determined with the Ca(2+)-sensitive dye furaptra. We manipulated presynaptic Ca2+ entry by altering external Ca2+ levels and by blocking Ca2+ channels with Cd2+ or with the toxins omega-conotoxin GVIA and omega-Aga-IVA. For all of the manipulations, other than the application of omega-Aga-IVA, the relationship between Ca2+ influx and release was well approximated by a power law, n approximately 2.5. When omega-Aga-IVA was applied, release appeared to be more steeply dependent on Ca2+ (n approximately 4), suggesting that omega-Aga-IVA-sensitive channels are more effective at triggering release. Based on interactive effects of toxins on synaptic currents, we conclude that multiple types of Ca2+ channels synergistically control individual release sites.