A comparative computer simulation of dendritic morphology

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Computational modeling of neuronal morphology is a powerful tool for understanding developmental processes and structure-function relationships. We present a multifaceted approach based on stochastic sampling of morphological measures from digital reconstructions of real cells. We examined how dendritic elongation, branching, and taper are controlled by three morphometric determinants: Branch Order, Radius, and Path Distance from the soma. Virtual dendrites were simulated starting from 3,715 neuronal trees reconstructed in 16 different laboratories, including morphological classes as diverse as spinal motoneurons and dentate granule cells. Several emergent morphometrics were used to compare real and virtual trees. Relating model parameters to Branch Order best constrained the number of terminations for most morphological classes, except pyramidal cell apical trees, which were better described by a dependence on Path Distance. In contrast, bifurcation asymmetry was best constrained by Radius for apical, but Path Distance for basal trees. All determinants showed similar performance in capturing total surface area, while surface area asymmetry was best determined by Path Distance. Grouping by other characteristics, such as size, asymmetry, arborizations, or animal species, showed smaller differences than observed between apical and basal, pointing to the biological importance of this separation. Hybrid models using combinations of the determinants confirmed these trends and allowed a detailed characterization of morphological relations. The differential findings between morphological groups suggest different underlying developmental mechanisms. By comparing the effects of several morphometric determinants on the simulation of different neuronal classes, this approach sheds light on possible growth mechanism variations responsible for the observed neuronal diversity. © 2008 Donohue, Ascoli.




Donohue, D. E., & Ascoli, G. A. (2008). A comparative computer simulation of dendritic morphology. PLoS Computational Biology, 4(6). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000089

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