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Biophys J. 2000 Nov;79(5):2211-21.

Bistability in the Ca(2+)/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase-phosphatase system.

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Department of Chemistry and Volen Center for Complex Systems, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts 02454-9110, USA.


A mathematical model is presented of autophosphorylation of Ca(2+)/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase (CaMKII) and its dephosphorylation by a phosphatase. If the total concentration of CaMKII subunits is significantly higher than the phosphatase Michaelis constant, two stable steady states of the CaMKII autophosphorylation can exist in a Ca(2+) concentration range from below the resting value of the intracellular [Ca(2+)] to the threshold concentration for induction of long-term potentiation (LTP). Bistability is a robust phenomenon, it occurs over a wide range of parameters of the model. Ca(2+) transients that switch CaMKII from the low-phosphorylated state to the high-phosphorylated one are in the same range of amplitudes and frequencies as the Ca(2+) transients that induce LTP. These results show that the CaMKII-phosphatase bistability may play an important role in long-term synaptic modifications. They also suggest a plausible explanation for the very high concentrations of CaMKII found in postsynaptic densities of cerebral neurons.

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