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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2007 Apr;1101:97-109. Epub 2007 Mar 1.

Control of uterine Ca2+ by membrane voltage: toward understanding the excitation-contraction coupling in human myometrium.

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  • 1Clinical Sciences Research Institute, The University of Warwick Medical School, Coventry, CV2 2DX, UK.


Myometrial contractility is a complex and dynamic physiological process that changes substantially during pregnancy and culminates in childbirth. Uterine contractions are initiated by transient rises in cytoplasmic Ca(2+) concentration ([Ca(2+)](i)), which in turn are triggered and controlled by myometrial action potentials. The sequence of events between the action potential generation and the contraction initiation is referred to as excitation-contraction coupling. Hormones and other physiologically active substances affect myometrial contractility by modulating different steps in the excitation-contraction coupling process. It is therefore imperative that we understand that process to understand the regulation of myometrial contractility. The complex action potentials generated by human myometrium result from the activity of many ion channels, transporters, and pumps. Two types of myometrial action potential waveform have been described in the literature: a plateau type and a spike type. Parameters of the myometrial [Ca(2+)](i) transients and contractions differ depending on the type of action potential that triggers them. Some aspects of the excitation-contraction coupling are unique to human myometrium and cannot be found in animal models; some others are common between many species. This article reviews the current state and discusses future directions of physiological research on human myometrial excitation-contraction coupling.

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