A-Type K+ Current Can Act as a Trigger for Bursting in the Absence of a Slow Variable

Natalia Toporikova, Joel Tabak, Marc E. Freeman, Richard Bertram

Models of bursting in single cells typically include two subsystems with different timescales. Variations in one or more slow variables switch the system between a silent and a spiking state. We have developed a model for bursting in the pituitary lactotroph that does not include any slow variable. The model incorporates fast, noninactivating calcium and potassium currents (the spike-generating mechanism), as well as the fast, inactivating A-type potassium current (I_A). I_A is active only briefly at the beginning of a burst, but this brief impulse of I_A acts as a burst trigger, injecting the spike trajectory close to an unstable steady state. The spiraling of the trajectory away from the steady state produces a period of low-amplitude spiking typical of lactotrophs. Increasing the conductance of A-type potassium current brings the trajectory closer to the unstable steady state, increasing burst duration. However, this also increases interburst interval, and for larger conductance values, all activity stops. To our knowledge, this is the first example of a physiologically based, single-compartmental model of bursting with no slow subsystem.