Pituitary corticotrophs fire action potentials spontaneously and in response to stimulation with corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) and arginine vaspressin (AVP), and such electrical activity is critical for calcium signaling and calcium-dependent adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) secretion. These cells typically fire tall sharp action potentials when spontaneously active, but a variety of other spontaneous patterns have also been reported, including various modes of bursting. There is variability in reports of the fraction of corticotrophs that are electrically active, as well as their patterns of activity, and the sources of this variation are not well understood. The ionic mechanisms responsible for CRH and AVP triggered electrical activity in corticotrophs are also poorly characterized. We use electrophysiological measurements and mathematical modeling to investigate possible sources of variability in patterns of spontaneous and agonist-induced corticotroph electrical activity. In the model, variation in as few as two parameters can give rise to many of the types of patterns observed in electrophysiological recordings of corticotrophs. We compare the known mechanisms for CRH, AVP and glucocorticoid actions and find that different ionic mechanisms can contribute in different but complementary ways to generate the complex time courses of CRH and AVP responses. Taken together, our modeling suggests that corticotrophs have several mechanisms at their disposal to achieve their primary function of pacemaking depolarization and increased electrical activity in response to CRH and AVP.
- action potentials
- ion channels
- Copyright © 2016, Journal of Neurophysiology