Phorbol esters and adenosine have been proposed to interact at common sites downstream of calcium entry at amphibian motor nerve endings. We thus studied the actions and interactions of phorbol esters and adenosine using electrophysiological recording techniques in conjunction with both binomial statistical analysis and high-frequency stimulation at the amphibian neuromuscular junction. To begin this study, we confirmed previous observations that synchronous evoked acetylcholine (ACh) release (reflected as endplate potentials, Epps) is well described by a simple binomial distribution. We then used binomial analysis to study the effects of the phorbol ester phorbol dibutyrate (PDBu, 100 nm) and adenosine (50,μM) on the binomial parameters n (the number of calcium charged ACh quanta available for release) and p (the average probability of release), where the mean level of evoked ACh release (m) = np. We found that PDBu increased m by increasing the parameter n whilst adenosine reduced m by reducing n; neither agent affected the parameter p. PDBu had no effect on either the potency or efficacy of the inhibition produced by adenosine. Subtle differences between these two agents were revealed by the patterns of Epps evoked by high-frequency trains of stimuli. Phorbol esters increased ACh release during the early phase of stimulation but not during the subsequent plateau phase. The inhibitory effect of adenosine was maximal at the beginning of the train and was still present with reduced efficacy during the plateau phase. When taken together with previous findings, these present results suggest that phorbol esters increase the immediately available store of synaptic vesicles by increasing the number of primed vesicles whilst adenosine acts at a later stage of the secretory process to decrease the number of calcium-charged primed vesicles.
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