Calcium ions and the brain

If it's on your mind and it has to do with multiple sclerosis in any way, post it here.

Calcium ions and the brain

Postby dignan » Thu Mar 01, 2007 8:32 am

Interesting research that could have MS implications.

Calcium is spark of life, kiss of death for nerve cells

March 1, 2007 -- Oregon Health & Science University research shows how calcium regulates the recharging of high-frequency auditory nerve cells after they've fired a burst of signals, and it may have implications for neurological disorders.

The study by scientists at OHSU's Vollum Institute and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, which appears in the current issue of the journal Nature Neuroscience, shows that calcium ions play a greater role in keeping in check the brain's most powerful circuits, such as those used for processing sound signals, than previously thought.

A better understanding of that role could someday help prevent the death of neurons behind some diseases of the brain and spinal cord, such as stroke and multiple sclerosis, the scientists say.

The research, led by postdoctoral fellow Jun Hee Kim, Ph.D., and her advisor, Henrique von Gersdorff, Ph.D., both scientists at the Vollum Institute, found that calcium tempers the activity of a high-throughput sodium pump, located in the plasma membrane covering nerve endings, that controls how quickly and accurately a nerve cell continues firing after an initial burst of spiking activity.

"What's happening in the brain is you have all these action potentials (spikes) that are firing - the action potential is the way you transmit information quickly from neuron to neuron - and when you have an action potential, you have an explosive influx of sodium ions into the cell," von Gersdorff said. "As a result, the cell is depolarized and it needs to be quickly repolarized."

To repolarize a cell so it can continue firing, and do so accurately and at high-input frequencies, the sodium pump ejects three positively charged sodium ions and imports two positively charged potassium ions. The net result is one positive charged is expelled from the cell, causing a hyperpolarization of the cell's membrane potential.

Quick repolarization of the nerve cell is essential. Mature auditory nerve cells fire at frequencies that are 10 to 100 times higher than most high-frequency cells in the brain - 1 kiloHertz, or 1,000 Hertz. Most brain synapses, the space between nerve cells through which impulses are transmitted and received, begin failing beyond 10 Hertz.

"In the last few years, we have been studying high-frequency firing cells in the auditory part of the brain. We found that these cells and nerve terminals are amazing because they can fire at 1,000 Hertz without failures and with high precision," von Gersdorff said. "That discovery in our lab prompted us to ask the question: How is it that these nerve cells can handle all this high-frequency firing?"

Enter calcium, which, by inhibiting the activity of the sodium pump, regulates signal firing, and may conserve energy and keep the high-frequency cells from burning out. But calcium in high levels within a nerve cell can be toxic, so the researchers discovered another purpose for the sodium pump: powering a protein located on the nerve terminal membrane called the sodium-calcium exchanger, which removes the calcium and replaces it with sodium. That action, in turn, triggers the sodium pump, and so on.

The sodium-calcium exchanger "can import high concentrations of sodium from outside the cell, and it uses the gradient of low internal sodium in the cell as a form of energy to get rid of calcium. That energy comes, ultimately, from the sodium pump and its use of ATP, the cells' major fuel," von Gersdorff explained. The pump is "always keeping sodium concentration in the neuron low and that allows the sodium-calcium exchanger protein to constantly exchange sodium for calcium."

Otherwise, if allowed to get too high within the cell, the calcium shuts down the sodium pumps, creating a "vicious loop," von Gersdorff said.

"You then get a simultaneous build-up of calcium and sodium in the cell, and it's 'Goodbye to your neuron.' It goes at some point into an irreversible cycle of death," he said.

One potential therapeutic approach to preventing cell death caused by increasing calcium levels is making the sodium pump more insensitive to calcium. A potential new drug, for example, could "help the neuron to keep extruding sodium so it can help the sodium-calcium exchanger get rid of calcium, thereby not allowing calcium to reach toxic levels," von Gersdorff said.

For the time being, von Gersdorff's lab will continue studying how calcium regulates the sodium pump.

"Our hope is that these basic, fundamental issues will eventually lead to therapeutic strategies that alleviate neuronal damage from ischemia and stroke," he said. ... 022807.php
User avatar
Family Elder
Posts: 1608
Joined: Wed Aug 11, 2004 3:00 pm


Calcium, Axonal Injury and Hormones

Postby Shayk » Sun Mar 04, 2007 7:04 pm

Thanks Dignan--I found this quite interesting and definitely think it could apply to MS.

This abstract, General Mechanisms of Axonal Damage and Its Prevention notes
Axonal degeneration is a prominent pathological feature in multiple sclerosis observed over a century ago. The gradual loss of axons is thought to underlie irreversible clinical deficits in this disease. The precise mechanisms of axonopathy are poorly understood, but likely involve excess accumulation of Ca ions.

Of course, that also brings to mind one of my favorite abstracts about hormones: Estrogens attenuate and corticosterone exacerbates excitotoxicity, oxidative injury, and amyloid beta-peptide toxicity in hippocampal neurons
corticosterone exacerbated neuronal injury induced by glutamate

I'm pointing that out as there was a discussion in another thread about stress and whether or not it may have a physiological role in MS. Cortisol is the stress hormone. Now,
Estrogens and progesterone also attenuated A beta- and glutamate-induced elevation of intracellular free Ca2+ concentrations. We conclude that estrogens, progesterone, and corticosterone can directly affect neuronal vulnerability to excitotoxic, metabolic, and oxidative insults, suggesting roles for these steroids in several different neurodegenerative disorders.

I remain optimistic about a potential role for hormones in helping to manage MS and sorry guys, I don't know about testosterone in this regard, but as Dom mentioned elsewhere, we all have the same hormones and progesterone is not a sex steroid per se based on what I've read.

Edit: Oops, I forgot about DHEA could that happen. :roll:

DHEA with other neurosteroids preserve neuronal mitochondria from calcium overload
Thus, in the present work we provide evidence that DHEA with several other neurosteroids protect the mitochondria against intracellular Ca(2+) overload by inhibiting Ca(2+) influx into the mitochondrial matrix.

We all have DHEA too. :wink:

User avatar
Family Elder
Posts: 785
Joined: Fri Feb 06, 2004 4:00 pm

Vitamin D and Calcium

Postby Shayk » Thu Mar 22, 2007 5:41 pm


This is for you. :) And, if you posted it before, I missed it and my apologies.

From the article Dignan posted:
Calcium is spark of life, kiss of death for nerve cells

"You then get a simultaneous build-up of calcium and sodium in the cell, and it's 'Goodbye to your neuron.'

There might be a role for Vitamin D here.

Chronic 1alpha,25-(OH)2 vitamin D3 treatment reduces Ca2+....
These data provide direct evidence that 1,25VitD can regulate multiple Ca(2+)-dependent processes in neurons, with particular impact on reducing age-related changes associated with Ca(2+) dysregulation

Wouldn't it be something if they discovered the role of Vitamin D in MS had nothing to do with the immune system but instead was a factor because of its apparent impact on regulating calcium that's the "kiss of death" of neurons?

Something to think about.

User avatar
Family Elder
Posts: 785
Joined: Fri Feb 06, 2004 4:00 pm

Return to General Discussion


  • Related topics
    Last post

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users

Contact us | Terms of Service