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Cell Biochem Biophys. 2006;46(3):233-52.

Theoretical and experimental investigation of calcium-contraction coupling in airway smooth muscle.

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Université Bordeaux 2, Laboratoire de Physiologie Cellulaire Respiratoire, Bordeaux, F-33076 France; Inserm, E356, Bordeaux, F-33076 France.


We investigated theoretically and experimentally the Ca2+-contraction coupling in rat tracheal smooth muscle. [Ca2+]i, isometric contraction and myosin light chain (MLC) phosphorylation were measured in response to 1 mM carbachol. Theoretical modeling consisted in coupling a model of Ca2+-dependent MLC kinase (MLCK) activation with a four-state model of smooth muscle contractile apparatus. Stimulation resulted in a short-time contraction obtained within 1 min, followed by a long-time contraction up to the maximal force obtained in 30 min. ML-7 and Wortmannin (MLCK inhibitors) abolished the contraction. Chelerythrine (PKC inhibitor) did not change the short-time, but reduced the long-time contraction. [Ca2+]i responses of isolated myocytes recorded during the first 90 s consisted in a fast peak, followed by a plateau phase and, in 28% of the cells, superimposed Ca2+ oscillations. MLC phosphorylation was maximal at 5 s and then decreased, whereas isometric contraction followed a Hill-shaped curve. The model properly predicts the time course of MLC phosphorylation and force of the short-time response. With oscillating Ca2+ signal, the predicted force does not oscillate. According to the model, the amplitude of the plateau and the frequency of oscillations encode for the amplitude of force, whereas the peak encodes for force velocity. The long-time phase of the contraction, associated with a second increase in MLC phosphorylation, may be explained, at least partially, by MLC phosphatase (MLCP) inhibition, possibly via PKC inhibition.

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