- Although it is well established that many glutamatergic neurons sequester Zn(2+) within their synaptic vesicles, the physiological significance of synaptic Zn(2+) remains poorly understood. In experiments performed in a Zn(2+)-enriched auditory brainstem nucleus-the dorsal cochlear nucleus-we discovered that synaptic Zn(2+) and GPR39, a putative metabotropic Zn(2+)-sensing receptor (mZnR), are necessary for triggering the synthesis of the endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). The postsynaptic production of 2-AG, in turn, inhibits presynaptic probability of neurotransmitter release, thus shaping synaptic strength and short-term synaptic plasticity. Zn(2+)-induced inhibition of transmitter release is absent in mutant mice that lack either vesicular Zn(2+) or the mZnR. Moreover, mass spectrometry measurements of 2-AG levels reveal that Zn(2+)-mediated initiation of 2-AG synthesis is absent in mice lacking the mZnR. We reveal a previously unknown action of synaptic Zn(2+): synaptic Zn(2+) inhibits glutamate release by promoting 2-AG synthesis.