Mathematical simulations of ligand-gated and cell-type specific effects on the action potential of human atrium

Prog Biophys Mol Biol. Oct-Nov 2008;98(2-3):161-70. doi: 10.1016/j.pbiomolbio.2009.01.010. Epub 2009 Jan 30.


In the mammalian heart, myocytes and fibroblasts can communicate via gap junction, or connexin-mediated current flow. Some of the effects of this electrotonic coupling on the action potential waveform of the human ventricular myocyte have been analyzed in detail. The present study employs a recently developed mathematical model of the human atrial myocyte to investigate the consequences of this heterogeneous cell-cell interaction on the action potential of the human atrium. Two independent physiological processes which alter the physiology of the human atrium have been studied. i) The effects of the autonomic transmitter acetylcholine on the atrial action potential have been investigated by inclusion of a time-independent, acetylcholine-activated K(+) current in this mathematical model of the atrial myocyte. ii) A non-selective cation current which is activated by natriuretic peptides has been incorporated into a previously published mathematical model of the cardiac fibroblast. These results identify subtle effects of acetylcholine, which arise from the nonlinear interactions between ionic currents in the human atrial myocyte. They also illustrate marked alterations in the action potential waveform arising from fibroblast-myocyte source-sink principles when the natriuretic peptide-mediated cation conductance is activated. Additional calculations also illustrate the effects of simultaneous activation of both of these cell-type specific conductances within the atrial myocardium. This study provides a basis for beginning to assess the utility of mathematical modeling in understanding detailed cell-cell interactions within the complex paracrine environment of the human atrial myocardium.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / pharmacology
  • Action Potentials / drug effects
  • Atrial Function / drug effects
  • Atrial Function / physiology*
  • Atrial Natriuretic Factor / pharmacology
  • Fibroblasts / drug effects
  • Fibroblasts / physiology
  • Heart Atria / cytology
  • Humans
  • Ion Channel Gating
  • Ion Channels / physiology
  • Models, Cardiovascular
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / drug effects
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / physiology


  • Ion Channels
  • Atrial Natriuretic Factor
  • Acetylcholine