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WM Keck Science

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Short-term plasticity is a pervasive feature of synapses. Synapses exhibit many forms of plasticity operating over a range of time scales. We develop an optimization method that allows rapid characterization of synapses with multiple time scales of facilitation and depression. Investigation of paired neurons that are postsynaptic to the same identified interneuron in the buccal ganglion of Aplysia reveals that the responses of the two neurons differ in the magnitude of synaptic depression. Also, for single neurons, prolonged stimulation of the presynaptic neuron causes stimulus-induced increases in the early phase of synaptic depression. These observations can be described by a model that incorporates two availability factors, e.g., depletable vesicle pools or desensitizing receptor populations, with different time courses of recovery, and a single facilitation component. This model accurately predicts the responses to novel stimuli. The source of synaptic heterogeneity is identified with variations in the relative sizes of the two availability factors, and the stimulus-induced decrement in the early synaptic response is explained by a slowing of the recovery rate of one of the availability factors. The synaptic heterogeneity and stimulus-induced modifications in synaptic depression observed here emphasize that synaptic efficacy depends on both the individual properties of synapses and their past history.


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