RIM determines Ca²+ channel density and vesicle docking at the presynaptic active zone
At presynaptic active zones, neurotransmitter release is initiated by the opening of voltage-gated Ca²+ channels close to docked vesicles. The mechanisms that enrich Ca²+ channels at active zones are, however, largely unknown, possibly because of the limited presynaptic accessibility of most synapses. Here, we have established a Cre-lox based conditional knockout approach at a presynaptically accessible central nervous system synapse, the calyx of Held, to directly study the functions of RIM proteins. Removal of all RIM1/2 isoforms strongly reduced the presynaptic Ca²+ channel density, revealing a role of RIM proteins in Ca²+ channel targeting. Removal of RIMs also reduced the readily releasable pool, paralleled by a similar reduction of the number of docked vesicles, and the Ca²+ channel-vesicle coupling was decreased. Thus, RIM proteins co-ordinately regulate key functions for fast transmitter release, enabling a high presynaptic Ca²+ channel density and vesicle docking at the active zone.