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Abstract

Calcium ions (Ca2+) are important mediators of a great variety of cellular activities e.g. in response to an agonist activation of a receptor. The magnitude of a cellular response is often encoded by frequency modulation of Ca2+ oscillations and correlated with the stimula-tion intensity. The stimulation intensity highly depends on the sensitivity of a cell to a certain agonist. In some cases, it is essential that neighboring cells produce a similar and synchro-nized response to an agonist despite their different sensitivity. In order to decipher the pre-sumed function of Ca2+ waves spreading among connecting cells, a mathematical model was developed. This model allows to numerically modifying the connectivity probability between neighboring cells, the permeability of gap junctions and the individual sensitivity of cells to an agonist. Here, we show numerically that strong gap junctional coupling between neighbors ensures an equilibrated response to agonist stimulation via formation of Ca2+ phase waves, i.e. a less sensitive neighbor will produce the same or similar Ca2+ signal as its highly sensitive neighbor. The most sensitive cells within an ensemble are the wave initia-tor cells. The Ca2+ wave in the cytoplasm is driven by a sensitization wave front in the endo-plasmic reticulum. The wave velocity is proportional to the cellular sensitivity and to the strength of the coupling. The waves can form different patterns including circular rings and spirals. The observed pattern depends on the strength of noise, gap junctional permeability and the connectivity probability between neighboring cells. Our simulations reveal that one highly sensitive region gradually takes the lead within the entire noisy system by generating directed circular phase waves originating from this region.

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