Membrane property abnormalities in simulated cases of mild systematic and severe focal demyelinating neuropathies

Eur Biophys J. 2008 Feb;37(2):183-95. doi: 10.1007/s00249-007-0215-6. Epub 2007 Sep 5.


The investigation of multiple nerve membrane properties by mathematical models has become a new tool to study peripheral neuropathies. In demyelinating neuropathies, the membrane properties such as potentials (intracellular, extracellular, electrotonic) and indices of axonal excitability (strength-duration time constants, rheobases and recovery cycles) can now be measured at the peripheral nerves. This study provides numerical simulations of the membrane properties of human motor nerve fibre in cases of internodal, paranodal and simultaneously of paranodal internodal demyelinations, each of them mild systematic or severe focal. The computations use our previous multi-layered model of the fibre. The results show that the abnormally greater increase of the hyperpolarizing electrotonus, shorter strength-duration time constants and greater axonal superexcitability in the recovery cycles are the characteristic features of the mildly systematically demyelinated cases. The small decrease of the polarizing electrotonic responses in the demyelinated zone in turn leads to a compensatory small increase of these responses outside the demyelinated zone of all severely focally demyelinated cases. The paper summarizes the insights gained from these modeling studies on the membrane property abnormalities underlying the variation in clinical symptoms of demyelination in Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease type 1A, chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, Guillain-Barré syndrome and multifocal motor neuropathy. The model used provides an objective study of the mechanisms of these diseases which up till now have not been sufficiently well understood, because quite different assumptions have been given in the literature for the interpretation of the membrane property abnormalities obtained in hereditary, chronic and acquired demyelinating neuropathies.

MeSH terms

  • Axons / metabolism
  • Axons / pathology
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism*
  • Cell Membrane / pathology*
  • Demyelinating Diseases / metabolism*
  • Demyelinating Diseases / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Membranes / metabolism
  • Intracellular Membranes / pathology
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Models, Biological*
  • Motor Neurons / metabolism
  • Motor Neurons / pathology
  • Myelin Sheath / metabolism
  • Myelin Sheath / pathology
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / metabolism*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / pathology*