2018 Volume 94 Issue 3 Pages 139-152
Synaptic contacts mediate information transfer between neurons. The calyx of Held, a large synapse in the mammalian auditory brainstem, has been used as a model system for the mechanism of transmitter release from the presynaptic terminal for the last 20 years. By applying simultaneous recordings from pre- and postsynaptic compartments, the calcium-dependence of the kinetics of transmitter release has been quantified. A single pool of readily releasable vesicles cannot explain the time course of release during repetitive activity. Rather, multiple pools of vesicles have to be postulated that are replenished with distinct kinetics after depletion. The physical identity of vesicle replenishment has been unknown. Recently, it has become possible to apply total internal reflection fluorescent microscopy to the calyx terminal. This technique allowed the visualization of the dynamics of individual synaptic vesicles. Rather than recruitment of vesicles to the transmitter release sites, priming of tethered vesicles in the total internal reflection fluorescent field limited the number of readily releasable vesicles during sustained activity.