Multicellular model for intercellular synchronization in circadian neural networks

Vasalou C, Herzog ED, Henson MA (2011). Biophysical Journal, 101(1):12-20 Read More


We developed a multicellular model characterized by a high degree of heterogeneity to investigate possible mechanisms that underlie circadian network synchronization and rhythmicity in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). We populated a two-dimensional grid with 400 model neurons coupled via γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP) neurotransmitters through a putative Ca2+ mediated signaling cascade to investigate their roles in gene expression and electrical firing activity of cell populations. As observed experimentally, our model predicted that GABA would affect the amplitude of circadian oscillations but not synchrony among individual oscillators. Our model recapitulated experimental findings of decreased synchrony and average periods, loss of rhythmicity, and reduced circadian amplitudes as VIP signaling was eliminated. In addition, simulated increases of VIP reduced periodicity and synchrony. We therefore postulated a physiological range of VIP within which the system is able to produce sustained and synchronized oscillations. Our model recapitulated experimental findings of diminished amplitudes and periodicity with decreasing intracellular Ca 2+ concentrations, suggesting that such behavior could be due to simultaneous decrease of individual oscillation amplitudes and population synchrony. Simulated increases in Cl- levels resulted in increased Cl- influx into the cytosol, a decrease of inhibitory postsynaptic currents, and ultimately a shift of GABA-elicited responses from inhibitory to excitatory. The simultaneous reduction of IPSCs and increase in membrane resting potential produced GABA dose-dependent increases in firing rates across the population, as has been observed experimentally. By integrating circadian gene regulation and electrophysiology with intracellular and intercellular signaling, we were able to develop the first (to our knowledge) multicellular model that allows the effects of clock genes, electrical firing, Ca2+, GABA, and VIP on circadian system behavior to be predicted.

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Posted on October 14, 2011
Posted in: Neurogenetics, Publications Authors: