Perineuronal nets restrict transport near the neuron surface: A coarse- grained molecular dynamics study

KO Hanssen and A Malthe-Sorenssen, FRONTIERS IN COMPUTATIONAL NEUROSCIENCE, 16, 967735 (2022).

DOI: 10.3389/fncom.2022.967735

Perineuronal nets (PNNs) are mesh-like extracellular matrix structures that wrap around certain neurons in the central nervous system. They are hypothesized to stabilize memories in the brain and act as a barrier between cell and extracellular space. As a means to study the impact of PNNs on diffusion, the nets were approximated by negatively charged polymer brushes and simulated by coarse-grained molecular dynamics. Diffusion constants of single neutral and single charged particles were obtained in directions parallel and perpendicular to the brush substrate. The results for the neutral particle were compared to different theories of diffusion in a heuristic manner. Diffusion was found to be considerably reduced for brush spacings smaller than 10 nm, with a pronounced anisotropy for dense brushes. The exact dynamics of the chains was found to have a negligible impact on particle diffusion. The resistance of the brush proved small compared to typical values of the membrane resistance of a neuron, indicating that PNNs likely contribute little to the total resistance of an enwrapped neuron.

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