Tonic synapses are specialized for sustained calcium entry and transmitter release, allowing them to operate in a graded fashion over a wide dynamic range. We identified a novel plasma membrane calcium entry mechanism that extends the range of rod photoreceptor signalling into light-adapted conditions. The mechanism, which shares molecular and physiological characteristics with store-operated calcium entry (SOCE), is required to maintain baseline [Ca2+]i in rod inner segments and synaptic terminals. Sustained Ca2+ entry into rod cytosol is augmented by store depletion, blocked by La3+ and Gd3+ and suppressed by organic antagonists MRS-1845 and SKF-96365. Store depletion and the subsequent Ca2+ influx directly stimulated exocytosis in terminals of light-adapted rods loaded with the activity-dependent dye FM1-43. Moreover, SOCE blockers suppressed rod-mediated synaptic inputs to horizontal cells without affecting presynaptic voltage-operated Ca2+ entry. Silencing of TRPC1 expression with small interference RNA disrupted SOCE in rods, but had no effect on cone Ca2+ signalling. Rods were immunopositive for TRPC1 whereas cone inner segments immunostained with TRPC6 channel antibodies. Thus, SOCE modulates Ca2+ homeostasis and light-evoked neurotransmission at the rod photoreceptor synapse mediated by TRPC1.
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