Presynaptic calcium dynamics at the frog retinotectal synapse

Marla B. Feller, Kerry R. Delaney, David W. Tank

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


1. We characterized the kinetics of presynaptic Ca2+ ion concentration in optic nerve fibers and terminals of the optic tectum in Rana pipiens with the use of microfluorimetry. Isolated frog brains were incubated with the membrane-permeant tetraacetoxymethyl ester (AM) of the Ca2+ indicator fura- 2. An optic nerve shock caused a transient decrease in the 380-nm excited fluorescence in the optic rectum with a rise time of <15 ms and a recovery to prestimulus levels on a time scale of seconds. 2. In normal saline, the amplitude of the fluorescence transients was dependent on stimulus intensity and at all levels it was directly correlated with the amplitude of postsynaptic field potentials produced by activation of unmyelinated optic nerve fibers. In the presence of the non-N-methyl-D-aspartate glutamate receptor antagonist 6-cyano-7-nitroquinoxaline-2,3-dione, the amplitude and time course of fluorescence transients remained essentially unchanged while postsynaptic field potential amplitude was greatly reduced. Replacing extracellular Ca2+ with Ba2+ blocked unfacilitated postsynaptic field potentials while fluorescence transients remained significant. In reduced- Ca2+ salines (< 1 mM), the amplitude of fluorescence transients increased approximately linearly with extracellular [Ca2+], whereas the amplitude the corresponding field potential was nonlinearly related to the fluorescent transient amplitude (~2.5 power). In thin sections of labeled tecta, fluorescence labeling was localized to 1-μm puncta in the termination zone of optic nerve fibers in the superficial layers. Taken together, these results provide strong evidence that the fluorescence transients correspond to an increase in Ca2+ in presynaptic terminals of unmyelinated optic nerve fibers. 3. During trains of optic nerve stimulation, the amplitude of fluorescence transients to succeeding action potentials became smaller. The decrement of the amplitudes was not observed in mag-fura-5-labeled recta, when the intracellular Ca2+ buffering capacity of fura-2-labeled terminals was increased by incubation with bis-(o-aminophenoxy)-N,N,N',N'-tetraacetic acid (BAPTA)-AM or ethylene glycol-bis (β-aminoethyl ether)-N,N,N',N'- tetraacetic acid (EGTA)-AM, or in low-Ca2+ saline. We conclude that the Ca2+ influx per action potential is constant during the train and that the reduced response was produced by saturation of the fura-2. We provide a mathematical analysis of this saturation effect and use it to estimate the Ca2+ change per action potential. 4. Both BAPTA-AM and EGTA-AM reduced the overall amplitude of fura-2-measured Ca2+ transients and reduced the saturation effect in action potential trains. However, there was a qualitative difference in their effects on the shape of the transient. Incubation with the fast buffer BAPTA prolonged the decay to baseline. In contrast, the slow buffer EGTA (or EDTA) produced an initial decay faster than the control condition while also producing the slower subsequent phase observed with BAPTA. We demonstrate that these results are consistent with numerical simulations of Ca2+ dynamics in a single-compartment model where the fast initial decay is produced by the forward rate of Ca2+ binding to EGTA. 5. Ca2+ influx into rectal presynaptic structures, and also into unmyelinated axons in the isolated optic nerve, was diminished (60-70%) in the presence of the voltage-activated Ca2+ channel blocker ω-conotoxin GVIA, but was only weakly affected (≃10%) by ω-agatoxin IVA. 6. After 10- to 50-Hz stimulus trains, synaptic enhancement of unmyelinated fibers decayed with a characteristic time similar to fura-2 fluorescence decays. Incubation with EDTA-AM or EGTA-AM produced little effect on evoked release but reduced both the amplitude of the fura-2-measured Ca2+ transient and the amplitude of short-term synaptic enhancement. Our data are consistent with the hypothesis that at least part of activity-dependent short-term synaptic enhancement that decays on the time scale of seconds at the retinotectal synapse is produced through the actions of presynaptic residual Ca2+ ions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)381-400
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1996
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience
  • Physiology


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