Exocytosis of synaptic vesicles is generally assumed to occur only at ultrastructurally defined presynaptic active zones. If release is restricted to these sites, receptors not located within the synaptic cleft must be activated by transmitter that diffuses out of the cleft or not be activated at all. Here we report that AMPA receptor-mediated quantal events resulting from climbing fiber release are observed in Bergmann glial cells in the cerebellar cortex. These quantal events are not coincident with quanta recorded in neighboring Purkinje cells which receive input from the same climbing fiber. As Bergmann glial membranes are excluded from the synaptic cleft, we propose that exocytosis can occur from climbing fiber release sites located directly across from Bergmann glial membranes. Such ectopic release may account for the majority of the Bergmann glial AMPA response evoked by climbing fiber stimulation.
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