The paper describes a detailed mechanism-based model of a tripartite synapse consisting of P- and R-neurons together with a giant glial cell in the ganglia of the medical leech (Hirudo medicinalis), which is a useful object for experimental studies in situ. We describe the two main pathways of the glial cell activation: (1) via IP3 production and Ca2+ release from the endoplasmic reticulum and (2) via increase of the extracellular potassium concentration, glia depolarization, and opening of voltage-dependent Ca2+ channels. We suggest that the second pathway is the more significant for establishing the positive feedback in glutamate release that is critical for the self-sustained activity of the postsynaptic neuron. This mechanism differs from the mechanisms of the astrocyte-neuron signaling previously reported.
Journal of Biological Physics, 2008, Vol 34, Issue 3-4, p. 441-457