The interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC) drive rhythmic pacemaking contractions in the gastrointestinal system. The ICC generate pacemaking signals by membrane depolarizations associated with the release of intracellular calcium (Ca(2+)) in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) through inositol-trisphosphate (IP3) receptors (IP3R) and uptake by mitochondria (MT). This Ca(2+) dynamic is hypothesized to generate pacemaking signals by calibrating ER Ca(2+) store depletions and membrane depolarization with ER store-operated Ca(2+) entry mechanisms. Using a biophysically based spatio-temporal model of integrated Ca(2+) transport in the ICC, we determined the feasibility of ER depletion timescale correspondence with experimentally observed pacemaking frequencies while considering the impact of IP3R Ca(2+) release and MT uptake on bulk cytosolic Ca(2+) levels because persistent elevations of free intracellular Ca(2+) are toxic to the cell. MT densities and distributions are varied in the model geometry to observe MT influence on free cytosolic Ca(2+) and the resulting frequencies of ER Ca(2+) store depletions, as well as the sarco-endoplasmic reticulum Ca(2+) ATP-ase (SERCA) and IP3 agonist concentrations. Our simulations show that high MT densities observed in the ICC are more relevant to ER establishing Ca(2+) depletion frequencies than protection of the cytosol from elevated free Ca(2+), whereas the SERCA pump is more relevant to containing cytosolic Ca(2+) elevations. Our results further suggest that the level of IP3 agonist stimulating ER Ca(2+) release, subsequent MT uptake, and eventual activation of ER store-operated Ca(2+) entry may determine frequencies of rhythmic pacemaking exhibited by the ICC across species and tissue types.
Copyright © 2014 the American Physiological Society.