Bursts of neuronal activity are transmitted more effectively as synapses mature. However, the mechanisms that control synaptic efficiency during development are poorly understood. Here, we study postnatal changes in synaptic ultrastructure and exocytosis in a calyx-type nerve terminal. Vesicle pool size, exocytotic efficiency (amount of exocytosis per Ca influx), Ca current facilitation, and the number of active zones (AZs) increased with age, whereas AZ area, number of docked vesicles per AZ, and release probability decreased with age. These changes led to AZs that are less prone to multivesicular release, resulting in reduced AMPA receptor saturation and desensitization. A greater multiplicity of small AZs with few docked vesicles, a larger pool of releasable vesicles, and a higher efficiency of release thus promote prolonged high-frequency firing in mature synapses.
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