Corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) is an important regulator of adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) secretion from pituitary corticotroph cells. The intracellular signaling system that underlies this process involves modulation of voltage-sensitive Ca2+ channel activity, which leads to the generation of Ca2+ action potentials and influx of Ca2+. However, the mechanisms by which Ca2+ channel activity is modulated in corticotrophs are not currently known. We investigated this process in a Hodgkin-Huxley-type mathematical model of corticotroph plasma membrane electrical responses. We found that an increase in the L-type Ca2+ current was sufficient to generate action potentials from a previously resting state of the model. The increase in the L-type current could be elicited by either a shift in the voltage dependence of the current toward more negative potentials, or by an increase in the conductance of the current. Although either of these mechanisms is potentially responsible for the generation of action potentials, previous experimental evidence favors the former mechanism, with the magnitude of the shift required being consistent with the experimental findings. The model also shows that the T-type Ca2+ current plays a role in setting the excitability of the plasma membrane, but does not appear to contribute, in a dynamic manner to action potential generation. Inhibition of a K+ conductance that is active at rest also affects the excitability of the plasma membrane.
LeBeau, A. P., Robson, A. B., McKinnon, A. E., Donald, R. A., & Sneyd, J. (1997). Generation of action potentials in a mathematical model of corticotrophs. Biophysical Journal, 73(3), 1263–1275. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0006-3495(97)78159-1