PLoS Computational Biology (Nov 2018)

Active dendrites regulate the spatiotemporal spread of signaling microdomains.

  • Reshma Basak,
  • Rishikesh Narayanan

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 14, no. 11
p. e1006485


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Microdomains that emerge from spatially constricted spread of biochemical signaling components play a central role in several neuronal computations. Although dendrites, endowed with several voltage-gated ion channels, form a prominent structural substrate for microdomain physiology, it is not known if these channels regulate the spatiotemporal spread of signaling microdomains. Here, we employed a multiscale, morphologically realistic, conductance-based model of the hippocampal pyramidal neuron that accounted for experimental details of electrical and calcium-dependent biochemical signaling. We activated synaptic N-Methyl-d-Aspartate receptors through theta-burst stimulation (TBS) or pairing (TBP) and assessed microdomain propagation along a signaling pathway that included calmodulin, calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII) and protein phosphatase 1. We found that the spatiotemporal spread of the TBS-evoked microdomain in phosphorylated CaMKII (pCaMKII) was amplified in comparison to that of the corresponding calcium microdomain. Next, we assessed the role of two dendritically expressed inactivating channels, one restorative (A-type potassium) and another regenerative (T-type calcium), by systematically varying their conductances. Whereas A-type potassium channels suppressed the spread of pCaMKII microdomains by altering the voltage response to TBS, T-type calcium channels enhanced this spread by modulating TBS-induced calcium influx without changing the voltage. Finally, we explored cross-dependencies of these channels with other model components, and demonstrated the heavy mutual interdependence of several biophysical and biochemical properties in regulating microdomains and their spread. Our conclusions unveil a pivotal role for dendritic voltage-gated ion channels in actively amplifying or suppressing biochemical signals and their spatiotemporal spread, with critical implications for clustered synaptic plasticity, robust information transfer and efficient neural coding.