Computational Models of Intracellular Signalling and Synaptic Plasticity Induction in the Cerebellum
Matos Pinto, Thiago
Many molecules and the complex interactions between them underlie plasticity in the cerebellum. However, the exact relationship between cerebellar plasticity and the different signalling cascades remains unclear. Calcium-calmodulin dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII) regulates many forms of synaptic plasticity, but very little is known about its function during plasticity induction in the cerebellum. The aim of this thesis is to contribute to a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms that regulate the induction of synaptic plasticity in cerebellar Purkinje cells (PCs). The focus of the thesis is to investigate the role of CaMKII isoforms in the bidirectional modulation of plasticity induction at parallel fibre (PF)-PC synapses. For this investigation, computational models that represent the CaMKII activation and the signalling network that mediates plasticity induction at these synapses were constructed. The model of CaMKII activation by calcium-calmodulin developed by Dupont et al (2003) replicates the experiments by De Koninck and Schulman (1998). Both theoretical and experimental studies have argued that the phosphorylation and activation of CaMKII depends on the frequency of calcium oscillations. Using a simplified version of the Dupont model, it was demonstrated that the CaMKII phosphorylation is mostly determined by the average calcium-calmodulin concentration, and therefore depends only indirectly on the actual frequency of calcium oscillations. I have shown that a pulsed application of calcium-calmodulin is, in fact, not required at all. These findings strongly indicate that the activation of CaMKII depends on the average calcium-calmodulin concentration and not on the oscillation frequency per se as asserted in those studies. This thesis also presents the first model of AMPA receptor phosphorylation that simulates the induction of long-term depression (LTD) and potentiation (LTP) at the PF-PC synapse. The results of computer simulations of a simple mathematical model suggest that the balance of CaMKII-mediated phosphorylation and protein phosphatase 2B (PP2B)-mediated dephosphorylation of AMPA receptors determines whether LTD or LTP occurs in cerebellar PCs. This model replicates the experimental observations by Van Woerden et al (2009) that indicate that CaMKII controls the direction of plasticity at PF-PC synapses. My computer simulations support Van Woerden et al’s original suggestion that filamentous actin binding can enable CaMKII to regulate bidirectional plasticity at these synapses. The computational models of intracellular signalling constructed in this thesis advance the understanding of the mechanisms of synaptic plasticity induction in the cerebellum. These simple models are significant tools for future research by the scientific community.