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Stochastic Calcium Mechanisms Cause Dendritic Calcium Spike Variability.

H Anwar, I Hepburn, H Nedelescu, W Chen, E De Schutter

Theoretical Neurobiology, University of Antwerp, 2610 Wilrijk, Belgium, and Computational Neuroscience Unit, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, Okinawa 904-0495, Japan.

The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience 33(40):15848-15867 (2013)

Abstract - Bursts of dendritic calcium spikes play an important role in excitability and synaptic plasticity in many types of neurons. In single Purkinje cells, spontaneous and synaptically evoked dendritic calcium bursts come in a variety of shapes with a variable number of spikes. The mechanisms causing this variability have never been investigated thoroughly. In this study, a detailed computational model using novel simulation routines is applied to identify the roles that stochastic ion channels, spatial arrangements of ion channels, and stochastic intracellular calcium have toward producing calcium burst variability. Consistent with experimental recordings from rats, strong variability in the burst shape is observed in simulations. This variability persists in large model sizes in contrast to models containing only voltage-gated channels, where variability reduces quickly with increase of system size. Phase plane analysis of Hodgkin-Huxley spikes and of calcium bursts identifies fluctuation in phase space around probabilistic phase boundaries as the mechanism determining the dependence of variability on model size. Stochastic calcium dynamics are the main cause of calcium burst fluctuations, specifically the calcium activation of mslo/BK-type and SK2 channels. Local variability of calcium concentration has a significant effect at larger model sizes. Simulations of both spontaneous and synaptically evoked calcium bursts in a reconstructed dendrite show, in addition, strong spatial and temporal variability of voltage and calcium, depending on morphological properties of the dendrite. Our findings suggest that stochastic intracellular calcium mechanisms play a crucial role in dendritic calcium spike generation and are therefore an essential consideration in studies of neuronal excitability and plasticity.

PMID: 24089492 [PubMed]