Experimental evidence shows that neurotransmitter release, from presynaptic terminals, can be regulated by altering transmitter load per synaptic vesicle (SV) and/or through change in the probability of vesicle release. The vesicular acetylcholine transporter (VAChT) loads acetylcholine into SVs at cholinergic synapses. We investigated how the VAChT affects SV content and release frequency at central synapses in Drosophila melanogaster by using an insecticidal compound, 5Cl-CASPP, to block VAChT and by transgenic overexpression of VAChT in cholinergic interneurons. Decreasing VAChT activity produces a decrease in spontaneous SV release with no change to quantal size and no decrease in the number of vesicles at the active zone. This suggests that many vesicles are lacking in neurotransmitter. Overexpression of VAChT leads to increased frequency of SV release, but again with no change in quantal size or vesicle number. This indicates that loading of central cholinergic SVs obeys the "set-point" model, rather than the "steady-state" model that better describes loading at the vertebrate neuromuscular junction. However, we show that expression of a VAChT polymorphism lacking one glutamine residue in a COOH-terminal polyQ domain leads to increased spontaneous SV release and increased quantal size. This effect spotlights the poly-glutamine domain as potentially being important for sensing the level of neurotransmitter in cholinergic SVs.
- central synapse
- vesicular transporter