Glycine and GABAA (γ-aminobutyric acid A) receptors are inhibitory neurotransmitter-gated Cl- channels localized in postsynaptic membranes. In some cases, GABAA receptors are also found presynaptically, but they retain their inhibitory effect as their activation reduces excitatory transmitter release. Here we report evidence for presynaptic ionotropic glycine receptors, using pre- and postsynaptic recordings of a calyceal synapse in the medial nucleus of the trapezoid body (MNTB). Unlike the classical action of glycine, presynaptic glycine receptors triggered a weakly depolarizing Cl- current in the nerve terminal. The depolarization enhanced transmitter release by activating Ca2+ channels and increasing resting intraterminal Ca2+ concentrations. Repetitive activation of glycinergic synapses on MNTB neurons also enhanced glutamatergic synaptic currents, indicating that presynaptic glycine receptors are activated by glycine spillover. These results reveal a novel site of action of the transmitter glycine, and indicate that under certain conditions presynaptic Cl- channels may increase transmitter release.
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