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Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 2011 Sep 1;3(9):a004549. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a004549.

Calcium signaling in smooth muscle.

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Department of Pharmacology, College of Medicine, University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont 05405, USA.


Changes in intracellular Ca(2+) are central to the function of smooth muscle, which lines the walls of all hollow organs. These changes take a variety of forms, from sustained, cell-wide increases to temporally varying, localized changes. The nature of the Ca(2+) signal is a reflection of the source of Ca(2+) (extracellular or intracellular) and the molecular entity responsible for generating it. Depending on the specific channel involved and the detection technology employed, extracellular Ca(2+) entry may be detected optically as graded elevations in intracellular Ca(2+), junctional Ca(2+) transients, Ca(2+) flashes, or Ca(2+) sparklets, whereas release of Ca(2+) from intracellular stores may manifest as Ca(2+) sparks, Ca(2+) puffs, or Ca(2+) waves. These diverse Ca(2+) signals collectively regulate a variety of functions. Some functions, such as contractility, are unique to smooth muscle; others are common to other excitable cells (e.g., modulation of membrane potential) and nonexcitable cells (e.g., regulation of gene expression).

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