Synaptic active zone (AZ) can release multiple vesicles in response to an action potential. This multi-vesicular release (MVR) occurs at most synapses, but its spatiotemporal properties are unknown. Nanoscale-resolution detection of individual release events in hippocampal synapses revealed unprecedented heterogeneity among vesicle release sites within a single AZ, with a gradient of release probability decreasing from AZ center to periphery. Parallel to this organization, MVR events preferentially overlap with uni-vesicular release (UVR) events at sites closer to AZ center. Pairs of fusion events comprising MVR are also not perfectly synchronized, and the earlier event tends to occur closer to AZ center. The spatial features of release sites and MVR events are similarly tightened by buffering intracellular calcium. These observations revealed a marked heterogeneity of release site properties within individual AZs, which determines the spatiotemporal features of MVR events and is controlled, in part, by non-uniform calcium elevation across the AZ.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere55210
StatePublished - Feb 2020


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