Sustained neuronal activity demands a rapid resupply of synaptic vesicles to maintain reliable synaptic transmission. Such vesicle replenishment is accelerated by submicromolar presynaptic Ca2+ signals by an as-yet unidentified high-affinity Ca2+ sensor1,2. Here we identify synaptotagmin-3 (SYT3)3,4 as that presynaptic high-affinity Ca2+ sensor, which drives vesicle replenishment and short-term synaptic plasticity. Synapses in Syt3 knockout mice exhibited enhanced short-term depression, and recovery from depression was slower and insensitive to presynaptic residual Ca2+. During sustained neuronal firing, SYT3 accelerated vesicle replenishment and increased the size of the readily releasable pool. SYT3 also mediated short-term facilitation under conditions of low release probability and promoted synaptic enhancement together with another high-affinity synaptotagmin, SYT7 (ref. 5). Biophysical modelling predicted that SYT3 mediates both replenishment and facilitation by promoting the transition of loosely docked vesicles to tightly docked, primed states. Our results reveal a crucial role for presynaptic SYT3 in the maintenance of reliable high-frequency synaptic transmission. Moreover, multiple forms of short-term plasticity may converge on a mechanism of reversible, Ca2+-dependent vesicle docking.
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