Endocytosis is an essential process at sites of synaptic release. Not only are synaptic vesicles recycled by endocytosis, but the removal of proteins and lipids by endocytosis is needed to restore release site function at active zones after vesicle fusion. Synaptic exocytosis from vertebrate photoreceptors involves synaptic ribbons that serve to cluster vesicles near the presynaptic membrane. In this study, we hypothesize that this clustering increases the likelihood that exocytosis at one ribbon release site may disrupt release at an adjacent site and therefore that endocytosis may be particularly important for restoring release site competence at photoreceptor ribbon synapses. To test this, we combined optical and electrophysiological techniques in salamander rods. Pharmacological inhibition of dynamin-dependent endocytosis rapidly inhibits release from synaptic ribbons and slows recovery of ribbon-mediated release from paired pulse synaptic depression. Inhibiting endocytosis impairs the ability of second-order horizontal cells to follow rod light responses at frequencies as low as 2 Hz. Inhibition of endocytosis also increases lateral membrane mobility of individual Ca2+ channels, showing that it changes release site structure. Visualization of single synaptic vesicles by total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy reveals that inhibition of endocytosis reduces the likelihood of fusion among vesicles docked near ribbons and increases the likelihood that they will retreat from the membrane without fusion. Vesicle advance toward the membrane is also reduced, but the number of membrane-associated vesicles is not. Endocytosis therefore appears to be more important for restoring later steps in vesicle fusion than for restoring docking. Unlike conventional synapses in which endocytic restoration of release sites is evident only at high frequencies, endocytosis is needed to maintain release from rod ribbon synapses even at modest frequencies.
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