Cellular communication among smooth muscle cells: The role of membrane potential via connexins.

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Communication via action potentials among neurons has been extensively studied. However, effective communication without action potentials is ubiquitous in biological systems, yet it has received much less attention in comparison. Multi-cellular communication among smooth muscles is crucial for regulating blood flow, for example. Understanding the mechanism of this non-action potential communication is critical in many cases, like synchronization of cellular activity, under normal and pathological conditions. In this paper, we employ a multi-scale asymptotic method to derive a macroscopic homogenized bidomain model from the microscopic electro-neutral (EN) model. This is achieved by considering different diffusion coefficients and incorporating nonlinear interface conditions. Subsequently, the homogenized macroscopic model is used to investigate communication in multi-cellular tissues. Our computational simulations reveal that the membrane potential of syncytia, formed by interconnected cells via connexins, plays a crucial role in propagating oscillations from one region to another, providing an effective means for fast cellular communication. Statement of Significance: In this study, we investigated cellular communication and ion transport in vascular smooth muscle cells, shedding light on their mechanisms under normal and abnormal conditions. Our research highlights the potential of mathematical models in understanding complex biological systems. We developed effective macroscale electro-neutral bi-domain ion transport models and examined their behavior in response to different stimuli. Our findings revealed the crucial role of connexinmediated membrane potential changes and demonstrated the effectiveness of cellular communication through syncytium membranes. Despite some limitations, our study provides valuable insights into these processes and emphasizes the importance of mathematical modeling in unraveling the complexities of cellular communication and ion transport.





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Xiao, Chun, Yishui Sun, Huaxiong Huang, Xingye Yue, Zilong Song, Tim David and Shixin Xu (2023). Cellular communication among smooth muscle cells: The role of membrane potential via connexins. Journal of theoretical biology, 576. p. 111627. 10.1016/j.jtbi.2023.111627 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/29460.

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Shixin Xu

Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Duke Kunshan University

Shixin Xu is an Assistant Professor of Mathematics.   His research interests are machine learning and data-driven models for diseases,  multiscale modeling of complex fluids, Neurovascular coupling, homogenization theory, and numerical analysis.  The current projects he is working on are

  • image data-based for the prediction of hemorrhagic transformation in acute ischemic stroke,
  • electrodynamics modeling of saltatory conduction along a myelinated axon
  • electrochemical modeling
  • fluid-structure interaction with mass transportation and reaction

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