Deepak Nair, Eric Hosy, Jennifer D Petersen, Audrey Constals, Gregory Giannone, Daniel Choquet, Jean-Baptiste Sibarita
The spatiotemporal organization of neurotransmitter receptors in postsynaptic membranes is a fundamental determinant of synaptic transmission and information processing by the brain. Using four independent super-resolution light imaging methods and EM of genetically tagged and endogenous receptors, we show that, in rat hippocampal neurons, AMPARs are often highly concentrated inside synapses into a few clusters of ∼70 nm that contain ∼20 receptors. AMPARs are stabilized reversibly in these nanodomains and diffuse freely outside them. Nanodomains are dynamic in their shape and position within synapses and can form or disappear within minutes, although they are mostly stable for up to 1 h. AMPAR nanodomains are often, but not systematically, colocalized with clusters of the scaffold protein PSD95, which are generally of larger size than AMPAR nanoclusters. PSD95 expression level regulates AMPAR nanodomain size and compactness in parallel to miniature EPSC amplitude. Monte Carlo simulations further indicate the impact of AMPAR concentration in clusters on the efficacy of synaptic transmission. The observation that AMPARs are highly concentrated in nanodomains, instead of diffusively distributed in the PSD as generally thought, has important consequences on our understanding of excitatory neurotransmission. Furthermore, our results indicate that glutamatergic synaptic transmission is controlled by the nanometer-scale regulation of the size of these highly concentrated nanodomains.