Visual Neuroscience

Differential distribution of synaptotagmin immunoreactivity among synapses in the goldfish, salamander, and mouse retina

RUTH  HEIDELBERGER  a1 1 , MENG M.  WANG  a2 and DAVID M.  SHERRY  a2 c1 1
a1 Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy and the W.M. Keck Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, University of Texas-Houston Medical School, Houston
a2 University of Houston, College of Optometry, Houston


Synaptotagmin I is the leading candidate for the calcium sensor that triggers exocytosis at conventional synapses. However, physiological characterization of the calcium sensor for phasic release at the ribbon-style synapses of the goldfish Mb1 bipolar cell demonstrates a lower than predicted affinity for calcium, suggesting that a modified or different sensor triggers exocytosis at this synapse. We examined synaptotagmin immunolabeling in goldfish retina using two different antibodies directed against synaptotagmin epitopes that specifically labeled the expected 65-kDa protein on western blots of goldfish and mouse retinal membranes. The first antiserum strongly labeled conventional synapses in the inner plexiform layer (IPL), but did not label the ribbon-style synapse-containing synaptic terminals of goldfish Mb1 bipolar cells or photoreceptors. The second antibody also specifically labeled the expected 65-kDa protein on western blots but did not label any synapses in the goldfish retina. A third synaptotagmin antibody that performed poorly on western blots selectively labeled goldfish photoreceptor terminals. These results suggest that synaptotagmin may exist in at least three distinct “forms” in goldfish retinal synapses. These forms, which are differentially localized to conventional synapses, bipolar cell, and photoreceptor terminals, may represent differences in isoform, posttranslational modifications, epitope availability, and protein-binding partners. Labeling with these antibodies in the salamander and mouse retina revealed species-specific differences, indicating that synaptotagmin epitopes can vary across species as well as among synapses.

(Received September 11 2002)
(Accepted December 6 2002)

Key Words: Conventional synapse; Ribbon synapse; Bipolar cell; Photoreceptor.

c1 Address correspondence and reprint requests to: David M. Sherry, University of Houston College of Optometry, 505 J Davis Armistead Bldg., Houston, TX 77204-2020, USA. E-mail:


1 These authors contributed equally to this work.