A single Markov-type kinetic model accounting for the macroscopic currents of all human voltage-gated sodium channel isoforms

PLoS Comput Biol. 2017 Sep 1;13(9):e1005737. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005737. eCollection 2017 Sep.


Modelling ionic channels represents a fundamental step towards developing biologically detailed neuron models. Until recently, the voltage-gated ion channels have been mainly modelled according to the formalism introduced by the seminal works of Hodgkin and Huxley (HH). However, following the continuing achievements in the biophysical and molecular comprehension of these pore-forming transmembrane proteins, the HH formalism turned out to carry limitations and inconsistencies in reproducing the ion-channels electrophysiological behaviour. At the same time, Markov-type kinetic models have been increasingly proven to successfully replicate both the electrophysiological and biophysical features of different ion channels. However, in order to model even the finest non-conducting molecular conformational change, they are often equipped with a considerable number of states and related transitions, which make them computationally heavy and less suitable for implementation in conductance-based neurons and large networks of those. In this purely modelling study we develop a Markov-type kinetic model for all human voltage-gated sodium channels (VGSCs). The model framework is detailed, unifying (i.e., it accounts for all ion-channel isoforms) and computationally efficient (i.e. with a minimal set of states and transitions). The electrophysiological data to be modelled are gathered from previously published studies on whole-cell patch-clamp experiments in mammalian cell lines heterologously expressing the human VGSC subtypes (from NaV1.1 to NaV1.9). By adopting a minimum sequence of states, and using the same state diagram for all the distinct isoforms, the model ensures the lightest computational load when used in neuron models and neural networks of increasing complexity. The transitions between the states are described by original ordinary differential equations, which represent the rate of the state transitions as a function of voltage (i.e., membrane potential). The kinetic model, developed in the NEURON simulation environment, appears to be the simplest and most parsimonious way for a detailed phenomenological description of the human VGSCs electrophysiological behaviour.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • Computational Biology / methods*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Markov Chains
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Protein Isoforms / chemistry
  • Protein Isoforms / metabolism
  • Protein Isoforms / physiology
  • Voltage-Gated Sodium Channels / chemistry*
  • Voltage-Gated Sodium Channels / metabolism*
  • Voltage-Gated Sodium Channels / physiology


  • Protein Isoforms
  • Voltage-Gated Sodium Channels

Grant support

JH-K was funded by the European Horizon 2020 Framework Programme under grant agreement n° 720270 (Human Brain Project SGA1), the Swedish Research Council, and the Swedish e-Science Research Center. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.