Central synapses release a resource-efficient amount of glutamate

Abstract

Why synapses release a certain amount of neurotransmitter is poorly understood. We combined patch-clamp electrophysiology with computer simulations to estimate how much glutamate is discharged at two distinct central synapses of the rat. We found that, regardless of some uncertainty over synaptic microenvironment, synapses generate the maximal current per released glutamate molecule while maximizing signal information content. Our result suggests that synapses operate on a principle of resource optimization.

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Figure 1: The amount of glutamate released at CMF-CGC synapses corresponds to the maximal current per released molecule.
Figure 2: The amount of glutamate released at CA3-CA1 synapses corresponds to the maximal postsynaptic current per released molecule.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank A. Silver, D. Kullmann and K. Volynski for comments, and P. Michaluk for help with granule cell cultures. This work was supported by the Wellcome Trust, UK Medical Research Council, European Research Council Advanced Grant, and Biotechnology and UK Biological Sciences Research Council.

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L.P.S. conducted theoretical studies and simulations; S.S. carried out experiments and analyzes; D.A.R., L.P.S. and S.S. designed the study; D.A.R. wrote the paper, which was further edited by all authors.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Dmitri A Rusakov.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Savtchenko, L., Sylantyev, S. & Rusakov, D. Central synapses release a resource-efficient amount of glutamate. Nat Neurosci 16, 10–12 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/nn.3285

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