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PLoS Comput Biol. 2010 Oct 28;6(10):e1000972. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000972.

Numerical analysis of Ca2+ signaling in rat ventricular myocytes with realistic transverse-axial tubular geometry and inhibited sarcoplasmic reticulum.

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Department of Bioengineering, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, California, United States of America.


The t-tubules of mammalian ventricular myocytes are invaginations of the cell membrane that occur at each Z-line. These invaginations branch within the cell to form a complex network that allows rapid propagation of the electrical signal, and hence synchronous rise of intracellular calcium (Ca(2+)). To investigate how the t-tubule microanatomy and the distribution of membrane Ca(2+) flux affect cardiac excitation-contraction coupling we developed a 3-D continuum model of Ca(2+) signaling, buffering and diffusion in rat ventricular myocytes. The transverse-axial t-tubule geometry was derived from light microscopy structural data. To solve the nonlinear reaction-diffusion system we extended SMOL software tool ( The analysis suggests that the quantitative understanding of the Ca(2+) signaling requires more accurate knowledge of the t-tubule ultra-structure and Ca(2+) flux distribution along the sarcolemma. The results reveal the important role for mobile and stationary Ca(2+) buffers, including the Ca(2+) indicator dye. In agreement with experiment, in the presence of fluorescence dye and inhibited sarcoplasmic reticulum, the lack of detectible differences in the depolarization-evoked Ca(2+) transients was found when the Ca(2+) flux was heterogeneously distributed along the sarcolemma. In the absence of fluorescence dye, strongly non-uniform Ca(2+) signals are predicted. Even at modest elevation of Ca(2+), reached during Ca(2+) influx, large and steep Ca(2+) gradients are found in the narrow sub-sarcolemmal space. The model predicts that the branched t-tubule structure and changes in the normal Ca(2+) flux density along the cell membrane support initiation and propagation of Ca(2+) waves in rat myocytes.

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