Variation in the number, location and size of synaptic vesicles provides an anatomical basis for the nonuniform probability of release at hippocampal CA1 synapses

Neuropharmacology. 1995 Nov;34(11):1387-95. doi: 10.1016/0028-3908(95)00142-s.


Synaptic vesicles, synaptic clefts and postsynaptic areas were measured in three dimensional reconstructions at representative axonal boutons in hippocampal area CA1. Both docked and non-docked vesicles were counted and measured. Small boutons on thin spines had about 2-6 docked vesicles from a pool of more than 200 vesicles. Medium-sized boutons on medium-sized mushroom-shaped dendritic spines contained about 13-16 docked vesicles from a pool of more than 450 vesicles. A large bouton synapsing with a large mushroom-shaped dendritic spine had two clusters of vesicles totaling more than 1000 vesicles. The postsynaptic density was segmented into two discrete zones under the two clusters of vesicles and 36 docked vesicles were distributed over its surfaces. Two multiple-synapse boutons contained more than 500 vesicles with 2-12 docked vesicles observed at each of the two postsynaptic densities on each bouton. This nonuniform number of docked vesicles provides an anatomical basis for the non-uniform probability of release that occurs across hippocampal synapses of different sizes. In addition, the volume of each synaptic vesicle was determined to be 0.4-5.2% of the total volume of the reconstructed synaptic clefts into which they presumably release their contents. However, since each vesicle contains more than 10 times the concentration of glutamate needed to saturate the postsynaptic receptors, these data also support the hypothesis that release a single synaptic vesicle will activate all of the postsynaptic receptors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / ultrastructure
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Glutamic Acid / analysis
  • Hippocampus / ultrastructure*
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Synapses / ultrastructure*
  • Synaptic Vesicles / chemistry
  • Synaptic Vesicles / ultrastructure*


  • Glutamic Acid