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J Physiol. 2005 Aug 1;566(Pt 3):645-56. Epub 2005 May 19.

Rhythmicity in arterial smooth muscle.

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  • 1Division of Neuroscience, John Curtin School of Medical Research, GPO Box 334, Canberra, ACT, 2601, Australia.


Many arteries and arterioles exhibit rhythmical contractions which are synchronous over considerable distances. This vasomotion is likely to assist in tissue perfusion especially during periods of altered metabolism or perfusion pressure. While the mechanism underlying vascular rhythmicity has been investigated for many years, it has only been recently, with the advent of imaging techniques for visualizing intracellular calcium release, that significant advances have been made. These methods, when combined with mechanical and electrophysiological recordings, have demonstrated that the rhythm depends critically on calcium released from intracellular stores within the smooth muscle cells and on cell coupling via gap junctions to synchronize oscillations in calcium release amongst adjacent cells. While these factors are common to all vessels studied to date, the contribution of voltage-dependent channels and the endothelium varies amongst different vessels. The basic mechanism for rhythmical activity in arteries thus differs from its counterpart in non-vascular smooth muscle, where specific networks of pacemaker cells generate electrical potentials which drive activity within the otherwise quiescent muscle cells.

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