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Proc Am Thorac Soc. 2008 Jan 1;5(1):23-31.

Regulation of airway smooth muscle cell contractility by Ca2+ signaling and sensitivity.

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  • 1Department of Physiology University of Massachusetts Medical School Worcester, MA 01655, USA.


Airway smooth muscle cell contraction is regulated by changes in intracellular Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]i) and the responsiveness of the airway smooth muscle cell to this Ca2+. The mechanism controlling [Ca2+]i primarily involves agonist-induced release of Ca2+ from internal stores to generate Ca2+ oscillations. The extent of contraction correlates with the persistence and frequency of these Ca2+ oscillations. The maintenance of the Ca2+ oscillations requires Ca2+ influx, but membrane depolarization appears to have a minor role in initiating or sustaining contraction. Contraction also requires agonist-induced Ca2+ sensitization, which is mediated mainly by decreases in myosin light-chain phosphatase activity. Although it is not clear if airway hyperresponsiveness associated with asthma results from the specific modulation of these Ca2+-based regulatory mechanisms, bronchodilators relax airways by both attenuating the Ca2+ oscillations and by decreasing the Ca2+ sensitivity.

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