Maus L, Lee C, Altas B, Sertel SM, Weyand K, Rizzoli SO, Rhee J, Brose N, Imig C, Cooper BH
Cell Rep. 2020 Mar 17;30(11):3632-3643.e8.
Purpose: Although similar in molecular composition, synapses can exhibit strikingly distinct functional transmitter release and plasticity characteristics. To determine whether ultrastructural differences co-define this functional heterogeneity, we combine hippocampal organotypic slice cultures, high-pressure freezing, freeze substitution, and 3D-electron tomography to compare two functionally distinct synapses: hippocampal Schaffer collateral and mossy fiber synapses. We find that mossy fiber synapses, which exhibit a lower release probability and stronger short-term facilitation than Schaffer collateral synapses, harbor lower numbers of docked synaptic vesicles at active zones and a second pool of possibly tethered vesicles in their vicinity. Our data indicate that differences in the ratio of docked versus tethered vesicles at active zones contribute to distinct functional characteristics of synapses.