The synapse between inner hair cells and auditory nerve fiber dendrites shows large excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs), which are either monophasic or multiphasic. Multiquantal or uniquantal (flickering) release of neurotransmitter has been proposed to underlie the unusual multiphasic waveforms. Here the nature of multiphasic waveforms is analyzed using EPSCs recorded in vitro in rat afferent dendrites. Spontaneous EPSCs were deconvolved into a sum of presumed release events having monophasic EPSC waveforms. Results include, first, the charge of EPSCs is about the same for multiphasic versus monophasic EPSCs. Second, EPSC amplitudes decline with the number of release events per EPSC. Third, there is no evidence of a mini-EPSC. Most results can be accounted for by versions of either uniquantal or multiquantal release. However, serial neurotransmitter release in multiphasic EPSCs shows properties that are not fully explained by either model, especially that the amplitudes of individual release events are established at the beginning of a multiphasic EPSC, constraining possible models of vesicle release.NEW & NOTEWORTHY How do monophasic and multiphasic waveshapes arise in auditory-nerve dendrites; mainly are they uniquantal, arising from release of a single vesicle, or multiquantal, requiring several vesicles? The charge injected by excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs) is the same for monophasic or multiphasic EPSCs, supporting uniquantal release. Serial adaptation of responses to sequential EPSCs favors a multiquantal model. Finally, neurotransmitter partitioning into similar sized release boluses occurs at the first bolus in the EPSC, not easily explained with either model.
- hair cell
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