Projects per year
Vasopressin neurons generate distinctive phasic patterned spike activity in response to elevated extracellular osmotic pressure. These spikes are generated in the cell body and are conducted down the axon to the axonal terminals where they trigger Ca2+ entry and subsequent exocytosis of hormone-containing vesicles and secretion of vasopressin. This mechanism is highly non-linear, subject to both frequency facilitation and fatigue, such that the rate of secretion depends on both the rate and patterning of the spike activity. Here we used computational modelling to investigate this relationship and how it shapes the overall response of the neuronal population. We generated a concise single compartment model of the secretion mechanism, fitted to experimentally observed profiles of facilitation and fatigue, and based on representations of the hypothesised underlying mechanisms. These mechanisms include spike broadening, Ca2+ channel inactivation, a Ca2+ sensitive K+ current, and releasable and reserve pools of vesicles. We coupled the secretion model to an existing integrate-and-fire based spiking model in order to study the secretion response to increasing synaptic input, and compared phasic and non-phasic spiking models to assess the functional value of the phasic spiking pattern. The secretory response of individual phasic cells is very non-linear, but the response of a heterogeneous population of phasic cells shows a much more linear response to increasing input, matching the linear response we observe experimentally, though in this respect, phasic cells have no apparent advantage over non-phasic cells. Another challenge for the cells is maintaining this linear response during chronic stimulation, and we show that the activity-dependent fatigue mechanism has a potentially useful function in helping to maintain secretion despite depletion of stores. Without this mechanism, secretion in response to a steady stimulus declines as the stored content declines.