A theoretical study of calcium microdomains in turtle hair cells

Biophys J. 1996 Nov;71(5):2256-75. doi: 10.1016/S0006-3495(96)79429-8.


Confocal imaging has revealed microdomains of intracellular free Ca2+ in turtle hair cells evoked by depolarizing pulses and has delineated factors affecting the growth and dissipation of such domains. However, imaging experiments have limited spatial and temporal resolution. To extend the range of the results we have developed a three-dimensional model of Ca2+ diffusion in a cylindrical hair cell, allowing part of the Ca2+ influx to occur over a small circular region (radius 0.125-1.0 micron) representing a high-density array of voltage-dependent channels. The model incorporated experimental information about the number of channels, the fixed and mobile Ca2+ buffers, and the Ca2+ extrusion mechanism. A feature of the calculations was the use of a variable grid size depending on the proximity to the Ca2+ channel cluster. The results agreed qualitatively with experimental data on the localization of the Ca2+ transients, although the experimental responses were smaller and slower, which is most likely due to temporal and spatial averaging in the imaging. The model made predictions about 1) the optimal Ca2+ channel number and density within a cluster, 2) the conditions to ensure independence of neighboring clusters, and 3) the influence of the Ca2+ buffers on the kinetics and localization of the microdomains. We suggest that an increase in the mobile Ca2+ buffer concentration in high-frequency hair cells (which possess a larger number of release sites) would allow lower amplitude and faster Ca2+ responses and promote functional independence of the sites.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport, Active
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Calcium Channels / physiology
  • Calcium-Transporting ATPases / physiology
  • Cytoplasm / physiology
  • Diffusion
  • Hair Cells, Auditory / physiology*
  • Homeostasis
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Models, Biological
  • Turtles


  • Calcium Channels
  • Calcium-Transporting ATPases
  • Calcium