Glycinergic Miniature Synaptic Currents and Receptor Cluster Sizes Differ Between Spinal Cord Interneurons

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The structural features of a synaptic connection between central neurons play an important role in determining the strength of the connection. In the present study, we have examined the relationship between the structural and functional properties of glycinergic synapses in the rat spinal cord. We have analyzed the structure of glycinergic receptor clusters on rat ventral horn interneurons using antibodies against the glycine receptor clustering protein, gephyrin. We have examined the properties of quantal glycinergic currents generated at these synapses using whole cell patch-clamp recordings of miniature postsynaptic inhibitory currents (mIPSCs) in rat spinal cord slices in vitro. Our immunolabeling results demonstrate that there is a considerable variability in the size of glycine receptor clusters within individual neurons. Furthermore there are large differences in the mean cluster size between neurons. These observations are paralleled closely by recordings of glycinergic mIPSCs. The mIPSC amplitude varies significantly within and between neurons. Results obtained using combined immunolabeling and electrophysiological recording on the same neurons show that cells with small glycine receptor clusters concurrently exhibit small mIPSCs. Our results suggest that the differences in the size of glycinergic receptor clusters may constitute an important factor contributing to the observed differences in mIPSC amplitude among spinal cord interneurons.