Inhibition of transmitter release shortens the duration of the excitatory synaptic current at a calyceal synapse

J Neurophysiol. 1996 Nov;76(5):3584-8. doi: 10.1152/jn.1996.76.5.3584.


1. We investigated the effect of reducing transmitter release on the time course of multiquantal, evoked synaptic currents to test for transmitter "cross talk" between neighboring synaptic release sites within a calyceal synapse. By using a brain slice preparation, neurons in the chick nucleus magnocellularis (nMAG) were voltage clamped and individual presynaptic axons were stimulated to evoke excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs). 2. Application of 100-microM baclofen or 50-microM GABA in the presence of a gamma-aminobutyric acid-A (GABAA) receptor antagonist produced an 85% reduction of EPSCs, consistent with the activation of presynaptic gamma-aminobutyric acid-B (GABAB) receptors. In parallel with the reduction in the amplitude of the EPSC by GABAB receptor activation, the normally strong paired pulse depression (PPD) of the EPSC was converted to facilitation. The reduction in EPSC amplitude by gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) or baclofen was accompanied by a 20% reduction in the exponential time constant of decay of the EPSC. Weaker effects on the EPSC time course were observed for synapses with the least PPD. 3. Cd2+ (5 microM), which inhibits presynaptic calcium current, also reduced EPSC amplitude by 85% and converted PPD to facilitation. EPSCs were narrower in Cd2+, though less so than in baclofen. 4. The time course of the EPSC was longer than that of miniature synaptic currents, even after significant block by baclofen, GABA or Cd2+, indicating that dispersion of quantal release may help shape the synaptic waveform. However, the narrowing of the EPSC by baclofen, GABA, and Cd2+ suggests that high levels of quantal release at the calyceal synapse may delay the removal of transmitter, further slowing the EPSC.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Baclofen / pharmacology
  • Brain Stem / drug effects*
  • Chick Embryo
  • GABA Agonists / pharmacology*
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism*
  • Synapses / drug effects*
  • Synaptic Transmission / drug effects*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / pharmacology


  • GABA Agonists
  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Baclofen