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    The role of presynaptic Ca2+ entry in facilitation of transmitter release has been analysed by voltage-clamp measurements at synapses formed in culture by Retzius and P neurones isolated from the central nervous system (CNS) of the leech. The transmitter released by Retzius cells is serotonin. 2. Synaptic transmission persisted in solutions containing raised concentrations of divalent cations, reduced concentrations of Na+, and tetraethylammonium (TEA+) and 4-AP (to block K+ currents). Ca2+ and Sr2+ were more effective in promoting transmitter release than Ba2+, as assessed by the postsynaptic potentials in P cells. The degree and time course of facilitation in Ca2+- and Sr2+-containing solutions were similar to those observed for synapses bathed in normal L-15 medium. 3. Transmitter release depended upon the amplitude and the duration of presynaptic depolarization and inward Ca2+ current. Peak Ca2+ currents and postsynaptic potentials occurred with depolarizing steps to +15 mV. Frequent or prolonged pulses depressed the postsynaptic potentials. 4. Pairs of depolarizing pulses that caused facilitation were accompanied by identical inward Ca2+ currents. These results indicate that the mechanism responsible for facilitated serotonin release must occur following Ca2+ entry and that residual Ca2+ plays a role.

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