The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience

Target Cell Type-Dependent Differences in Ca(2+) Channel Function Underlie Distinct Release Probabilities at Hippocampal Glutamatergic Terminals.

PMID 28115484


Target cell type-dependent differences in presynaptic release probability (Pr ) and short-term plasticity are intriguing features of cortical microcircuits that increase the computational power of neuronal networks. Here, we tested the hypothesis that different voltage-gated Ca(2+) channel densities in presynaptic active zones (AZs) underlie different Pr values. Two-photon Ca(2+) imaging, triple immunofluorescent labeling, and 3D electron microscopic (EM) reconstruction of rat CA3 pyramidal cell axon terminals revealed ∼1.7-1.9 times higher Ca(2+) inflow per AZ area in high Pr boutons synapsing onto parvalbumin-positive interneurons (INs) than in low Pr boutons synapsing onto mGluR1α-positive INs. EM replica immunogold labeling, however, demonstrated only 1.15 times larger Cav2.1 and Cav2.2 subunit densities in high Pr AZs. Our results indicate target cell type-specific modulation of voltage-gated Ca(2+) channel function or different subunit composition as possible mechanisms underlying the functional differences. In addition, high Pr synapses are also characterized by a higher density of docked vesicles, suggesting that a concerted action of these mechanisms underlies the functional differences.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Target cell type-dependent variability in presynaptic properties is an intriguing feature of cortical synapses. When a single cortical pyramidal cell establishes a synapse onto a somatostatin-expressing interneuron (IN), the synapse releases glutamate with low probability, whereas the next bouton of the same axon has high release probability when its postsynaptic target is a parvalbumin-expressing IN. Here, we used combined molecular, imaging, and anatomical approaches to investigate the mechanisms underlying these differences. Our functional experiments implied an approximately twofold larger Ca(2+) channel density in high release probability boutons, whereas freeze-fracture immunolocalization demonstrated only a 15% difference in Ca(2+) channel subunit densities. Our results point toward a postsynaptic target cell type-dependent regulation of Ca(2+) channel function or different subunit composition as the underlying mechanism.