Augmentation increases vesicular release probability in the presence of masking depression at the frog neuromuscular junction

Jonathan M. Kalkstein, Karl L. Magleby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Synaptic augmentation is a short-term component of synaptic plasticity that increases transmitter release during repetitive stimulation and decays thereafter with a time constant of ∼7 sec. Augmentation has typically been observed under conditions where there is little or no depression because of depletion of synaptic vesicles from the readily releasable pool (RRP) of transmitter. We now study augmentation under conditions of pronounced depression at the frog neuromuscular junction to gain additional insight into mechanism. If augmentation reflects an increase in the size of the RRP of transmitter, then augmentation should not be present with depression. Our findings using four different experimental approaches suggested that augmentation was still present in the presence of pronounced depression: mathematical extraction of augmentation from the changes in transmitter release after repetitive stimulation, identification of augmentation with Ba2+, correction of the data for the measured depletion of the RRP, and identification of an augmentation component of residual Ca2+. We conclude that the augmentation machinery still acts to increase transmitter release when depression reduces the RRP sufficiently to mask obvious augmentation. The masked augmentation was found to increase transmitter release by increasing the probability of releasing individual vesicles from the depressed RRP, countering the effects of depression. Because augmentation and depression have similar time courses, either process can mask the other, depending on their relative magnitudes. Consequently, the apparent absence of one of the processes does not exclude that it is still contributing to short-term synaptic plasticity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11391-11403
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number50
StatePublished - Dec 15 2004


  • Ca imaging
  • Readily releasable pool
  • Synaptic augmentation
  • Synaptic depression
  • Synaptic plasticity
  • Synaptic transmission

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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