Short-term synaptic depression during repetitive activity is a common property of most synapses. Multiple mechanisms contribute to this rapid depression in neurotransmission including a decrease in vesicle fusion probability, inactivation of voltage-gated Ca2+ channels or use-dependent inhibition of release machinery by presynaptic receptors. In addition, synaptic depression can arise from a rapid reduction in the number of vesicles available for release. This reduction can be countered by two sources. One source is replenishment from a set of reserve vesicles. The second source is the reuse of vesicles that have undergone exocytosis and endocytosis. If the synaptic vesicle reuse is fast enough then it can replenish vesicles during a brief burst of action potentials and play a substantial role in regulating the rate of synaptic depression. In the last 5 years, we have examined the impact of synaptic vesicle reuse on neurotransmission using fluorescence imaging of synaptic vesicle trafficking in combination with electrophysiological detection of short-term synaptic plasticity. These studies have revealed that synaptic vesicle reuse shapes the kinetics of short-term synaptic depression in a frequency-dependent manner. In addition, synaptic vesicle recycling helps maintain the level of neurotransmission at steady state. Moreover, our studies showed that synaptic vesicle reuse is a highly plastic process as it varies widely among synapses and can adapt to changes in chronic activity levels.
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