Computer simulations and electrophysiological experiments have been performed to test the hypothesis on the existence of an ephaptic interaction in purely chemical synapses. According to this hypothesis, the excitatory postsynaptic current would depolarize the presynaptic release site and further increase transmitter release, thus creating an intrasynaptic positive feedback. For synapses with the ephaptic feedback, computer simulations predicted non-linear amplitude-voltage relations and voltage dependence of paired-pulse facilitation. The deviation from linearity depended on the strength of the feedback determined by the value of the synaptic cleft resistance. The simulations showed that, in the presence of the intrasynaptic feedback, recruitment of imperfectly clamped synapses and synapses with linear amplitude-voltage relations tended to reduce the non-linearity and voltage dependence of paired-pulse facilitation. Therefore, the simulations predicted that the intrasynaptic feedback would particularly affect small excitatory postsynaptic currents induced by activation of electrotonically close synapses with long synaptic clefts. In electrophysiological experiments performed on hippocampal slices, the whole-cell configuration of the patch-clamp technique was used to record excitatory postsynaptic currents evoked in CA3 pyramidal cells by activation of large mossy fibre synapses. In accordance with the simulation results, minimal excitatory postsynaptic currents exhibited 'supralinear' amplitude-voltage relations at hyperpolarized membrane potentials, decreases in the failure rate and voltage-dependent paired-pulse facilitation. Composite excitatory postsynaptic currents evoked by activation of a large amount of presynaptic fibres typically bear linear amplitude-voltage relationships and voltage-independent paired-pulse facilitation. These data are consistent with the hypothesis on a strong ephaptic feedback in large mossy fibre synapses. The feedback would provide a mechanism whereby signals from large synapses would be amplified. The ephaptic feedback would be more effective on synapses activated in isolation or together with electrotonically remote inputs. During synchronous activation of a large number of neighbouring inputs, suppression of the positive intrasynaptic feedback would prevent abnormal boosting of potent signals. (C) 2000 IBRO.
- Excitatory postsynaptic currents
- Membrane hyperpolarization
ASJC Scopus subject areas