A Novel Computational Model of the Rabbit Atrial Cardiomyocyte With Spatial Calcium Dynamics

Marcia R. Vagos, Hermenegild Arevalo, Jordi Heijman, Ulrich Schotten, Joakim Sundnes*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Models of cardiac electrophysiology are widely used to supplement experimental results and to provide insight into mechanisms of cardiac function and pathology. The rabbit has been a particularly important animal model for studying mechanisms of atrial pathophysiology and atrial fibrillation, which has motivated the development of models for the rabbit atrial cardiomyocyte electrophysiology. Previously developed models include detailed representations of membrane currents and intracellular ionic concentrations, but these so-called "common-pool" models lack a spatially distributed description of the calcium handling system, which reflects the detailed ultrastructure likely found in cells in vivo. Because of the less well-developed T-tubular system in atrial compared to ventricular cardiomyocytes, spatial gradients in intracellular calcium concentrations may play a more significant role in atrial cardiomyocyte pathophysiology, rendering common-pool models less suitable for investigating underlying electrophysiological mechanisms. In this study, we developed a novel computational model of the rabbit atrial cardiomyocyte incorporating detailed compartmentalization of intracellular calcium dynamics, in addition to a description of membrane currents and intracellular processes. The spatial representation of calcium was based on dividing the intracellular space into eighteen different compartments in the transversal direction, each with separate systems for internal calcium storage and release, and tracking ionic fluxes between compartments in addition to the dynamics driven by membrane currents and calcium release. The model was parameterized employing a population-of-models approach using experimental data from different sources. The parameterization of this novel model resulted in a reduced population of models with inherent variability in calcium dynamics and electrophysiological properties, all of which fall within the range of observed experimental values. As such, the population of models may represent natural variability in cardiomyocyte electrophysiology or inherent uncertainty in the underlying experimental data. The ionic model population was also able to reproduce the U-shaped waveform observed in line-scans of triggered calcium waves in atrial cardiomyocytes, characteristic of the absence of T-tubules, resulting in a centripetal calcium wave due to subcellular calcium diffusion. This novel spatial model of the rabbit atrial cardiomyocyte can be used to integrate experimental findings, offering the potential to enhance our understanding of the pathophysiological role of calcium-handling abnormalities under diseased conditions, such as atrial fibrillation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number556156
Number of pages17
JournalFrontiers in physiology
Publication statusPublished - 9 Oct 2020


  • rabbit atrial cardiomyocyte
  • computational model
  • spatial calcium dynamics
  • calcium waves
  • population of models
  • correlation analysis


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