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A novel method for approximating equilibrium single-channel Ca2+ domains

Localized calcium (Ca2+) signals control some of the most fundamental physiological processes, including synaptic transmission as well as its activity-dependent plasticity. Computational and mathematical modeling played a crucial role in the understanding of spatio-temporal Ca2+ dynamics that drives these processes, and showed that Ca2+ concentration around a single Ca2+ channel reaches a quasi-stationary distribution (known as the Ca2+ "nanodomain") within tens of microseconds after the opening of the channel, and collapses as rapidly after the closing of the channel. Such localization of Ca2+ in time and space is achieved by its rapid diffusion as well as its binding to its multiple interaction partners collectively called Ca2+ buffers and Ca2+ sensors. One of the successes of mathematical modeling was the development of several analytic approximations describing the equilibrium concentration of Ca2+ as a function of distance from the open Ca2+ channel, such as the Rapid Buffering Approximation (RBA), the Linear Approximation (LA) and the Excess Buffering Approximation (EBA) [14]. Each of these approximations has a particular applicability parameter regime created by the interplay between the properties of Ca2+ buffers, in particular their mobility and Ca2+ binding rates, and the strength of the Ca2+ current. Here we present a novel approximation method which does not rely on a specific range of the relevant Ca2+ and buffer parameters, and is based on matching the low-distance and large-distance asymptotic behavior of the concentration function. Even at low orders, the resulting approximation is as accurate as the second-order RBA and EBA approximations [4], but its validity extends far beyond the parameter range of applicability of RBA and EBA. The usefulness of the resulting approximation is two-fold: first, together with the previously developed approximations, the novel method could provide a deeper intuition into the dependence of Ca2+ nanodomain properties on the relevant buffering parameters, and second, it constitutes an efficient numerical approximation tool in the modeling of the Ca2+ signals underlying presynaptic and postsynaptic phenomena.


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Correspondence to Victor Matveev.

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This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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Matveev, V. A novel method for approximating equilibrium single-channel Ca2+ domains. BMC Neurosci 16 (Suppl 1), P162 (2015).

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