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Presynaptic Endoplasmic Reticulum Contributes Crucially to Short-term Plasticity in Small Hippocampal Synapses

By Nishant Singh, Thomas Bartol, Herbert Levine, Terrence J Sejnowski, Suhita Nadkarni

Posted 01 Oct 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/431866

Short-term plasticity (STP) of the presynaptic terminal maintains a brief history of activity experienced by the synapse that may otherwise remain unseen by the postsynaptic neuron. These synaptic changes are primarily regulated by calcium dynamics in the presynaptic terminal. A rapid increase in intracellular calcium is initiated by the opening of voltage-dependent calcium channels in response to depolarization, the main source of calcium required for vesicle fusion. Separately, electron-microscopic studies of hippocampal CA3-CA1 synapses reveal the strong presence of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) in all presynaptic terminals. However, the precise role of the ER in modifying STP at the presynaptic terminal remains unexplored. To investigate the contribution of ER in modulating calcium dynamics in small hippocampal boutons, we performed in silico experiments in a physiologically-realistic canonical synaptic geometry based on reconstructions of CA3-CA1 Schaffer collaterals in the rat hippocampus. The model predicts that presynaptic calcium stores are critical in generating the observed paired-pulse ratio (PPR) of normal CA3-CA1 synapses. In control synapses with intact ER, SERCA pumps act as additional calcium buffers, lowering the intrinsic release probability of vesicle release and increasing PPR. In addition, the presence of ER allows ongoing activity to trigger calcium influx from the presynaptic ER via ryanodine receptors (RyRs) and inositol trisphosphate receptors (IP3Rs). Intracellular stores and their associated machinery also allows a synapse with a low release probability to operate more reliably due to attenuation of calcium fluctuations. Finally, blocking ER activity in the presynaptic terminal mimics the pathological state of a low facilitating synapse characterized in animal models of Alzheimer's disease, and underscores the critical role played by presynaptic stores in normal function.

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