Potassium and sodium microdomains in thin astroglial processes: A computational model study

Kevin Breslin, John Wade, KongFatt Wong-Lin, Jim Harkin, Bronac Flanagan, Harm Van Zalinge, Steve Hall, Matthew Walker, Alexei Verkhratsky, LJ McDaid

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42 Citations (Scopus)
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A biophysical model that captures molecular homeostatic control of ions at the perisynaptic cradle (PsC) is of fundamental importance for understanding the interplay between astroglial and neuronal compartments. In this paper, we develop a multi-compartmental mathematical model which proposes a novel mechanism whereby the flow of cations in thin processes is restricted due to negatively charged membrane lipids which result in the formation of deep potential wells near the dipole heads. These wells restrict the flow of cations to
"hopping" between adjacent wells as they transverse the process, and this surface retention of cations will be shown to give rise to the formation of potassium (K+) and sodium (Na+) microdomains at the PsC. We further propose that a K+ microdomain formed at the PsC, provides the driving force for the return of K+ to the extracellular space for uptake by the neurone, thereby preventing K+ undershoot. A slow decay of Na+ was also observed in our simulation after a period of glutamate stimulation which is in strong agreement with experimental observations. The pathological implications of microdomain formation during neuronal excitation are also discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1006151
Pages (from-to)1-25
Number of pages25
JournalPLoS Computational Biology
Issue number5
Early online date18 May 2018
Publication statusPublished online - 18 May 2018


  • Astrocytes
  • Membrane Potential
  • Glutamate
  • Sodium
  • Neurons
  • Cations
  • Synapses
  • Ions


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