Grabner CP, Moser T
Elife. 2021 Oct 7;10:e63844.
Rod photoreceptors (PRs) use ribbon synapses to transmit visual information. To signal ‘no light detected’ they release glutamate continually to activate post-synaptic receptors. When light is detected glutamate release pauses. How a rod’s individual ribbon enables this process was studied here by recording evoked changes in whole-cell membrane capacitance from wild-type and ribbonless (Ribeye-ko) mice. Wild-type rods filled with high (10 mM) or low (0.5 mM) concentrations of the Ca2+-buffer EGTA created a readily releasable pool (RRP) of 87 synaptic vesicles (SVs) that emptied as a single kinetic phase with a τ<0.4 ms. The lower concentration of EGTA accelerated Cav channel opening and facilitated release kinetics. In contrast, ribbonless rods created a much smaller RRP of 22 SVs, and they lacked Cav channel facilitation; however, Ca2+ channel-release coupling remained tight. These release deficits caused a sharp attenuation of rod-driven scotopic light responses. We conclude that the synaptic ribbon facilitates Ca2+-influx and establishes a large RRP of SVs.