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Intracellular pH, an important modulator of cell function, is regulated by plasmalemmal proteins that transport H(+), or its equivalent, into or out of the cell. The pH(i) is also stabilised by high-capacity, intrinsic buffering on cytoplasmic proteins, oligopeptides and other solutes, and by the extrinsic CO(2)/HCO(3)(-) (carbonic) buffer. As mobility of these buffers is lower than for the H(+) ion, they restrict proton diffusion. In this paper we use computational approaches, based on the finite difference and finite element methods (FDM and FEM, respectively), for analysing the spatio-temporal behaviour of [H(+)] when it is locally perturbed. We analyse experimental data obtained for various cell-types (cardiac myocytes, duodenal enterocytes, molluscan neurons) where pH(i) has been imaged confocally using intracellular pH-sensitive dyes. We design mathematical algorithms to generate solutions for two-dimensional diffusion that fit data in terms of an apparent intracellular H(+) diffusion coefficient, D(H)(app). The models are used to explore how the spatial distribution of [H(+)](i) is affected by membrane H(+)-equivalent transport and by cell geometry. We then develop a mechanistic model, describing spatio-temporal changes of [H(+)](i) in a cardiac ventricular myocyte in terms of H(+)-shuttling on mobile buffers and H(+)-anchoring on fixed buffers. We also discuss how modelling may include the effects of extrinsic carbonic-buffering. Overall, our computational approach provides a framework for future analyses of the physiological consequences of pH(i) non-uniformity.

Original publication




Journal article


Prog Biophys Mol Biol

Publication Date





69 - 100


Animals, Biological Transport, Computer Simulation, Enterocytes, Finite Element Analysis, Humans, Hydrogen-Ion Concentration, Intracellular Space, Models, Biological, Myocytes, Cardiac, Neurons, Protons