A single-compartment model of calcium dynamics in nerve terminals and dendrites

Fritjof Helmchen, David W. Tank

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


This introduction describes a single-compartment model of calcium dynamics that has been applied to fluorescence measurements of intracellular free calcium concentration ([Ca2+]i) changes in neurons. The model describes intracellular calcium handling under simplified conditions, for which analytical expressions for the amplitude and the time constants of [Ca2+]ichanges can be explicitly derived. In particular, it reveals the dependence of the measured [Ca2+]ichanges on the calcium indicator concentration. Applied to experimental data from small cells or subcellular compartments, the model equations have been extremely useful for obtaining quantitative information about essential parameters of Ca2+influx, buffering, and clearance. We illustrate also several changes that occur when the basic assumptions do not hold (e.g., when calcium diffusion, dye saturation, or kinetic effects become significant). Finally, we discuss how the changes in calcium dynamics, which are explained by the model, have been exploited for measuring properties of calcium-driven reactions, such as those regulating short-term synaptic enhancement, vesicle recycling, and adaptation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)155-167
Number of pages13
JournalCold Spring Harbor Protocols
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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