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A computational model of the ionic currents, Ca2+ dynamics and action potentials underlying contraction of isolated uterine smooth muscle

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Wing Tong, Professor Michael TaggartORCiD



Uterine contractions during labor are discretely regulated by rhythmic action potentials (AP) of varying duration and form that serve to determine calcium-dependent force production. We have employed a computational biology approach to develop a fuller understanding of the complexity of excitation-contraction (E-C) coupling of uterine smooth muscle cells (USMC). Our overall aim is to establish a mathematical platform of sufficient biophysical detail to quantitatively describe known uterine E-C coupling parameters and thereby inform future empirical investigations of physiological and pathophysiological mechanisms governing normal and dysfunctional labors. From published and unpublished data we construct mathematical models for fourteen ionic currents of USMCs: Ca2+ currents (L- and T-type), Na+ current, an hyperpolarization-activated current, three voltage-gated K+ currents, two Ca2+-activated K+ currents, Ca2+-activated Cl current, non-specific cation current, Na+-Ca2+ exchanger, Na+-K+ pump and background current. The magnitudes and kinetics of each current system in a spindle shaped single cell with a specified surface area:volume ratio is described by differential equations, in terms of maximal conductances, electrochemical gradient, voltage-dependent activation/inactivation gating variables and temporal changes in intracellular Ca2+ computed from known Ca2+ fluxes. These quantifications are validated by the reconstruction of the individual experimental ionic currents obtained under voltage-clamp. Phasic contraction is modeled in relation to the time constant of changing [Ca2+]i. This integrated model is validated by its reconstruction of the different USMC AP configurations (spikes, plateau and bursts of spikes), the changefrom bursting to plateau type AP produced by estradiol and of simultaneous experimental recordings of spontaneous AP, [Ca2+]i and phasic force. In summary, our advanced mathematical model provides a powerful tool to investigate the physiological ionic mechanisms underlying the genesis of uterine electrical E-C coupling of labor and parturition. This will furnish the evolution of descriptive and predictive quantitative models of myometrial electrogenesis at the whole cell and tissue levels.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Tong W-C, Choi CY, Kharche S, Holden AV, Zhang H, Taggart MJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: PLoS One

Year: 2011

Volume: 6

Issue: 4

Print publication date: 29/04/2011

Date deposited: 12/07/2011

ISSN (electronic): 1932-6203

Publisher: Public Library of Science


DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0018685


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Funder referenceFunder name
LSHB-CT-2004-005137EU Network of Excellence BioSim