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PLoS One. 2008 Apr 30;3(4):e2056. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0002056.

Ionic mechanisms of endogenous bursting in CA3 hippocampal pyramidal neurons: a model study.

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Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Institute for Computational Biomedicine, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York, New York, United States of America.


A critical property of some neurons is burst firing, which in the hippocampus plays a primary role in reliable transmission of electrical signals. However, bursting may also contribute to synchronization of electrical activity in networks of neurons, a hallmark of epilepsy. Understanding the ionic mechanisms of bursting in a single neuron, and how mutations associated with epilepsy modify these mechanisms, is an important building block for understanding the emergent network behaviors. We present a single-compartment model of a CA3 hippocampal pyramidal neuron based on recent experimental data. We then use the model to determine the roles of primary depolarizing currents in burst generation. The single compartment model incorporates accurate representations of sodium (Na(+)) channels (Na(V)1.1) and T-type calcium (Ca(2+)) channel subtypes (Ca(V)3.1, Ca(V)3.2, and Ca(V)3.3). Our simulations predict the importance of Na(+) and T-type Ca(2+) channels in hippocampal pyramidal cell bursting and reveal the distinct contribution of each subtype to burst morphology. We also performed fast-slow analysis in a reduced comparable model, which shows that our model burst is generated as a result of the interaction of two slow variables, the T-type Ca(2+) channel activation gate and the Ca(2+)-dependent potassium (K(+)) channel activation gate. The model reproduces a range of experimentally observed phenomena including afterdepolarizing potentials, spike widening at the end of the burst, and rebound. Finally, we use the model to simulate the effects of two epilepsy-linked mutations: R1648H in Na(V)1.1 and C456S in Ca(V)3.2, both of which result in increased cellular excitability.

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