Single Synaptic Observation of Cholinergic Neurotransmission on Living Neurons: Concentration and Dynamics

Mei Shen, Zizheng Qu, Justin Deslaurier, Theresa M. Welle, Jonathan V. Sweedler, Ran Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Acetylcholine, the first neurotransmitter identified more than a century ago, plays critical roles in human activities and health; however, its synaptic concentration dynamics have remained unknown. Here, we demonstrate the in situ simultaneous measurements of synaptic cholinergic transmitter concentration and release dynamics. We used nanoscale electroanalytical methods: nanoITIES electrode of 15 nm in radius and nanoresolved scanning electrochemical microscopy (SECM). Time-resolved in situ measurements unveiled information on synaptic acetylcholine concentration and release dynamics of living Aplysia neurons. The measuring technique enabled the quantitative sensing of acetylcholine with negligible interference of other ionic and redox-active species. We measured cholinergic transmitter concentrations very close to the synapse, with values as high as 2.4 mM. We observed diverse synaptic transmitter concentration dynamics consisting of singlet, doublet and multiplet events with a signal-to-noise ratio of 6 to 130. The unprecedented details about synaptic neurotransmission unveiled are instrumental for understanding brain communication and diseases in a way distinctive from extra-synaptic studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7764-7768
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number25
StatePublished - Jun 27 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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