Calcium and Glycolysis Mediate Multiple Bursting Modes in Pancreatic Islets

R. Bertram, L. Satin, M. Zhang, P. Smolen, and A. Sherman

Pancreatic islets of Langerhans produce bursts of electrical activity when exposed to stimulatory glucose levels. These bursts often have a regular repeating pattern, with a period of 10-60 s. In some cases, however, the bursts are episodic, clustered into bursts of bursts, which we call compound bursting. Consistent with this are recordings of free calcium concentration, oxygen consumption, mitochondrial membrane potential, and intraislet glucose levels that exhibit very slow oscillations, with faster oscillations superimposed. We describe a new mathematical model of the pancreatic beta-cell that can account for these multimodal patterns. The model includes the feedback of cytosolic calcium onto ion channels that can account for bursting, and a metabolic subsystem that is capable of producing slow oscillations driven by oscillations in glycolysis. This slow rhythm is responsible for the slow mode of compound bursting in the model. We also show that it is possible for glycolytic oscillations alone to drive a very slow form of bursting, which we call "glycolytic bursting". Finally, the model predicts that there is bistability between stationary and oscillatory glycolysis for a range of parameter values. We provide experimental support for this model prediction. Overall, the model can account for a diversity of islet behaviors described in the literature over the past 20 years.