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Three Roads to Islet Bursting: Emergent Oscillations in Coupled Phantom Bursters

  • Charles L. Zimliki
  • David Mears
  • Arthur Sherman
Biophysical Society
Publication Date
Jul 01, 2004


Glucose-induced membrane potential and Ca2+ oscillations in isolated pancreatic β-cells occur over a wide range of frequencies, from >6/min (fast) to <1/min (slow). However, cells within intact islets generally oscillate with periods of 10–60 s (medium). The phantom bursting concept addresses how β-cells can generate such a wide range of frequencies. Here, we explore an updated phantom bursting model to determine how heterogeneity in a single parameter can explain both the broad frequency range observed in single cells and the rarity of medium oscillations. We then incorporate the single-cell model into an islet model with parameter heterogeneity. We show that strongly coupled islets must be composed of predominantly medium oscillating single cells or a mixture of fast and slow cells to robustly produce medium oscillations. Surprisingly, we find that this constraint does not hold for moderate coupling, and that robustly medium oscillating islets can arise from populations of single cells that are essentially all slow or all fast. Thus, with coupled phantom bursters, medium oscillating islets can be constructed out of cells that are either all fast, all slow, or a combination of the two.

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