Barriers to diffusion in dendrites and estimation of calcium spread following synaptic inputs

Armin Biess, Eduard Korkotian, David Holcman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


The motion of ions, molecules or proteins in dendrites is restricted by cytoplasmic obstacles such as organelles, microtubules and actin network. To account for molecular crowding, we study the effect of diffusion barriers on local calcium spread in a dendrite. We first present a model based on a dimension reduction approach to approximate a three dimensional diffusion in a cylindrical dendrite by a one-dimensional effective diffusion process. By comparing uncaging experiments of an inert dye in a spiny dendrite and in a thin glass tube, we quantify the change in diffusion constants due to molecular crowding as D cyto/D water = 1/20. We validate our approach by reconstructing the uncaging experiments using Brownian simulations in a realistic 3D model dendrite. Finally, we construct a reduced reaction-diffusion equation to model calcium spread in a dendrite under the presence of additional buffers, pumps and synaptic input. We find that for moderate crowding, calcium dynamics is mainly regulated by the buffer concentration, but not by the cytoplasmic crowding, dendritic spines or synaptic inputs. Following high frequency stimulations, we predict that calcium spread in dendrites is limited to small microdomains of the order of a few microns (<5 μm).

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1002182
JournalPLoS Computational Biology
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


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