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Biophys J. 2002 Jul;83(1):59-78.

Termination of cardiac Ca(2+) sparks: an investigative mathematical model of calcium-induced calcium release.

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Medical Biotechnology Center, University of Maryland Biotechnology Center, Baltimore, Maryland 21201, USA.

Erratum in

  • Biophys J. 2004 May;86(5):3329.


A Ca(2+) spark arises when a cluster of sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) channels (ryanodine receptors or RyRs) opens to release calcium in a locally regenerative manner. Normally triggered by Ca(2+) influx across the sarcolemmal or transverse tubule membrane neighboring the cluster, the Ca(2+) spark has been shown to be the elementary Ca(2+) signaling event of excitation-contraction coupling in heart muscle. However, the question of how the Ca(2+) spark terminates remains a central, unresolved issue. Here we present a new model, "sticky cluster," of SR Ca(2+) release that simulates Ca(2+) spark behavior and enables robust Ca(2+) spark termination. Two newly documented features of RyR behavior have been incorporated in this otherwise simple model: "coupled gating" and an opening rate that depends on SR lumenal [Ca(2+)]. Using a Monte Carlo method, local Ca(2+)-induced Ca(2+) release from clusters containing between 10 and 100 RyRs is modeled. After release is triggered, Ca(2+) flux from RyRs diffuses into the cytosol and binds to intracellular buffers and the fluorescent Ca(2+) indicator fluo-3 to produce the model Ca(2+) spark. Ca(2+) sparks generated by the sticky cluster model resemble those observed experimentally, and Ca(2+) spark duration and amplitude are largely insensitive to the number of RyRs in a cluster. As expected from heart cell investigation, the spontaneous Ca(2+) spark rate in the model increases with elevated cytosolic or SR lumenal [Ca(2+)]. Furthermore, reduction of RyR coupling leads to prolonged model Ca(2+) sparks just as treatment with FK506 lengthens Ca(2+) sparks in heart cells. This new model of Ca(2+) spark behavior provides a "proof of principle" test of a new hypothesis for Ca(2+) spark termination and reproduces critical features of Ca(2+) sparks observed experimentally.

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