March 28, 2018

Study: Astrocytic Kir4.1 Channels and Gap Junctions Account for Spontaneous Epileptic Seizures

Abstract: Experimental recordings in hippocampal slices indicate that astrocytic dysfunction may cause neuronal hyper-excitation or seizures. Considering that astrocytes play important roles in mediating local uptake and spatial buffering of K+ in the extracellular space of the cortical circuit, we constructed a novel model of an astrocyte-neuron network module consisting of a single compartment neuron and 4 surrounding connected astrocytes and including extracellular potassium dynamics. Next, we developed a new model function for the astrocyte gap junctions, connecting two astrocyte-neuron network modules. The function form and parameters of the gap junction were based on nonlinear regression fitting of a set of experimental data published in previous studies. Moreover, we have created numerical simulations using the above single astrocyte-neuron network module and the coupled astrocyte-neuron network modules.

Our model validates previous experimental observations that both Kir4.1 channels and gap junctions play important roles in regulating the concentration of extracellular potassium. In addition, we also observe that changes in Kir4.1 channel conductance and gap junction strength induce spontaneous epileptic activity in the absence of external stimuli.

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