Presynaptic metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) are essential for activity-dependent modulation of synaptic transmission. However, the mechanisms that control the subsynaptic dynamics of these receptors and their contribution to synaptic signaling are poorly understood. Here, using complementary super-resolution microscopy and single-molecule tracking techniques, we provide novel insights into the molecular mechanisms that control the nanoscale distribution and mobility of presynaptic mGluRs in hippocampal neurons. We demonstrate that the group II receptor mGluR2 localizes diffusely along the axon and boutons, and is highly mobile, while the group III receptor mGluR7 is stably anchored at the active zone, indicating that distinct mechanisms underlie the dynamic distribution of these receptor types. Surprisingly, using domain swapping experiments we found that intracellular interactions modulate surface diffusion of mGluR2, but not mGluR7. Instead, we found that immobilization of mGluR7 at the active zone relies on its extracellular domain. Importantly, receptor activation or increase in synaptic activity did not alter the surface mobility of presynaptic mGluRs. Finally, computational modeling of presynaptic mGluR activity revealed that the precise subsynaptic distribution of mGluRs controls their activation probability and thus directly impacts their ability to modulate neurotransmitter release. Altogether, this study demonstrates that distinct mechanisms control surface mobility of presynaptic mGluRs to differentially contribute to the regulation of glutamatergic synaptic transmission.
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