Synapsin I (SynI) is a synaptic vesicle (SV)-associated phosphoprotein that modulates neurotransmission by controlling SV trafficking. The SynI C-domain contains a highly conserved ATP binding site mediating SynI oligomerization and SV clustering and an adjacent main Ca2+ binding site, whose physiological role is unexplored. Molecular dynamics simulations revealed that the E373K point mutation irreversibly deletes Ca2+ binding to SynI, still allowing ATP binding, but inducing a destabilization of the SynI oligomerization interface. Here, we analyzed the effects of this mutation on neurotransmitter release and short-term plasticity in excitatory and inhibitory synapses from primary hippocampal neurons. Patch-clamp recordings showed an increase in the frequency of miniature excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs) that was totally occluded by exogenous Ca2+ chelators and associated with a constitutive increase in resting terminal Ca2+ concentrations. Evoked EPSC amplitude was also reduced, due to a decreased readily releasable pool (RRP) size. Moreover, in both excitatory and inhibitory synapses, we observed a marked impaired recovery from synaptic depression, associated with impaired RRP refilling and depletion of the recycling pool of SVs. Our study identifies SynI as a novel Ca2+ buffer in excitatory terminals. Blocking Ca2+ binding to SynI results in higher constitutive Ca2+ levels that increase the probability of spontaneous release and disperse SVs. This causes a decreased size of the RRP and an impaired recovery from depression due to the failure of SV reclustering after sustained high-frequency stimulation. The results indicate a physiological role of Ca2+ binding to SynI in the regulation of SV clustering and trafficking in nerve terminals.
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