Although the contribution of postsynaptic mechanisms to long-term synaptic plasticity has been studied extensively, understanding the contribution of presynaptic modifications to this process lags behind, primarily because of a lack of techniques with which to directly and quantifiably measure neurotransmitter release from synaptic terminals. Here, we developed a method to measure presynaptic activity through the biotinylation of vesicular transporters in vesicles fused with presynaptic membranes during neurotransmitter release. This method allowed us for the first time to selectively quantify the spontaneous or evoked release of glutamate or GABA at their respective synapses. Using this method to investigate presynaptic changes during the expression of group I metabotropic glutamate receptor (mGluR1/5)-mediated long-term depression (LTD) in cultured rat hippocampal neurons, we discovered that this form of LTD was associated with increased presynaptic release of glutamate, despite reduced miniature EPSCs measured with whole-cell recording. Moreover, we found that specific blockade of AMPA receptor (AMPAR) endocytosis with a membrane-permeable GluR2-derived peptide not only prevented the expression of LTD but also eliminated LTD-associated increase in presynaptic release. Thus, our work not only demonstrates that mGluR1/5-mediated LTD is associated with increased endocytosis of postsynaptic AMPARs but also reveals an unexpected homeostatic/compensatory increase in presynaptic release. In addition, this study indicates that biotinylation of vesicular transporters in live cultured neurons is a valuable tool for studying presynaptic function.
ASJC Scopus subject areas