The afferent synapse between the inner hair cell (IHC) and the auditory nerve fiber provides an electrophysiologically accessible site for recording the postsynaptic activity of a single ribbon synapse. Ribbon synapses of sensory cells release neurotransmitter continuously, the rate of which is modulated in response to graded changes in IHC membrane potential. Ribbon synapses have been shown to operate by multivesicular release, where multiple vesicles can be released simultaneously to evoke excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs) of varying amplitudes. Neither the role of the presynaptic ribbon, nor the mechanism underlying multivesicular release is currently well understood. The IHC is innervated by 10-20 auditory nerve fibers, and every fiber contacts the IHC with a unmyelinated single ending to form a single ribbon synapse. The small size of the afferent boutons contacting IHCs (approximately 1 μm in diameter) enables recordings with exceptional temporal resolution to be made. Furthermore, the technique can be adapted to record from both pre- and postsynaptic cells simultaneously, allowing the transfer function at the synapse to be studied directly. This method therefore provides a means by which fundamental aspects of neurotransmission can be studied, from multivesicular release to the elusive function of the ribbon in sensory cells.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Chemical Engineering(all)
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)