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J Theor Biol. 2011 May 7;276(1):42-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jtbi.2011.01.022. Epub 2011 Feb 2.

The influence of the chloride currents on action potential firing and volume regulation of excitable cells studied by a kinetic model.

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Institute for Biochemistry, Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Berlin, Germany.


In excitable cells, the generation of an action potential (AP) is associated with transient changes of the intra- and extracellular concentrations of small ions such as Na(+), K(+) and Cl(-). If these changes cannot be fully reversed between successive APs cumulative changes of trans-membrane ion gradients will occur, impinging on the cell volume and the duration, amplitude and frequency of APs. Previous computational studies focused on effects associated with excitation-induced changes of potassium and sodium. Here we present a model based study on the influence of chloride on the fidelity of AP firing and cellular volume regulation during excitation. Our simulations show that depending on the magnitude of the basal chloride permeability two complementary types of responsiveness and volume variability exist: (i) At high chloride permeability (typical for muscle cells), large excitatory stimuli are required to elicit APs; repetitive stimuli of equal strength result in almost identical spike train patterns (Markovian behavior), however, long excitation may lead to after discharges due to an outward directed current of intracellular chloride ions which accumulate during excitation; cell volume changes are large. (ii) At low chloride permeability (e.g., neurons), small excitatory stimuli are sufficient to elicit APs, repetitive stimuli of equal strength produce spike trains with progressively changing amplitude, frequency and duration (short-term memory effects or non-Markovian behavior); cell volume changes are small. We hypothesize that variation of the basal chloride permeability could be an important mechanism of neuronal cells to adapt their responsiveness to external stimuli during learning and memory processes.

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