Simulation of the fertilization Ca2+ wave in Xenopus laevis eggs

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In the preceding paper Fontanilla and Nuccitelli (Biophysical Journal 75:2079-2087 (1998)) present detailed measurements of the shape and speed of the fertilization Ca2+ wave in Xenopus laevis eggs. In order to help interpret their results, we develop here a computational technique based on the finite element method that allows us to carry out realistic simulations of the fertilization wave. Our simulations support the hypothesis that the physiological state of the mature egg is bistable, i.e., that its cytoplasm can accommodate two alternative physiological Ca2+ concentrations: a low concentration characteristic of the prefertilization state and a greatly elevated concentration characteristic of the state following the passage of the wave. We explore this hypothesis by assuming that the bistability is due to the release and re-uptake properties of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) as determined by inositol trisphosphate (IP3) receptor/Ca2+ channels and sarcoendoplasmic reticulum calcium ATPase (SERCA) pumps. When combined with buffered diffusion of Ca2+ in the cytoplasm, our simulations show that inhomogeneities in the Ca2+ release properties near the plasma membrane are required to explain the temporal and spatial dependences of the shape and speed of these waves. Our results are consistent with an elevated IP3 concentration near the plasma membrane in the unfertilized egg that is augmented significantly near the site of fertilization. These gradients are essential in determining the concave shape of the Ca2+ fertilization wave front.




Wagner, J., Li, Y. X., Pearson, J., & Keizer, J. (1998). Simulation of the fertilization Ca2+ wave in Xenopus laevis eggs. Biophysical Journal, 75(4), 2088–2097.

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