Calcium-channel number critically influences synaptic strength and plasticity at the active zone

Jiansong Sheng, Liming He, Hongwei Zheng, Lei Xue, Fujun Luo, Wonchul Shin, Tao Sun, Thomas Kuner, David T. Yue, Ling Gang Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


How synaptic-vesicle release is controlled at the basic release structure, the active zone, is poorly understood. By performing cell-attached current and capacitance recordings predominantly at single active zones in rat calyces, we found that single active zones contained 5-218 (mean, 42) calcium channels and 1-10 (mean, 5) readily releasable vesicles (RRVs) and released 0-5 vesicles during a 2-ms depolarization. Large variation in the number of calcium channels caused wide variation in release strength (measured during a 2-ms depolarization) by regulating the RRV release probability (P RRV) and the RRV number. Consequently, an action potential opened-1/41-35 (mean,-1/47) channels, resulting in different release probabilities at different active zones. As the number of calcium-channels determined P RRV, it critically influenced whether subsequent release would be facilitated or depressed. Regulating calcium channel density at active zones may thus be a major mechanism to yield synapses with different release properties and plasticity. These findings may explain large differences reported at synapses regarding release strength (release of 0, 1 or multiple vesicles), P RRV, short-term plasticity, calcium transients and the requisite calcium-channel number for triggering release.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)998-1006
Number of pages9
JournalNature neuroscience
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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