The use of dynamic models to study the role of calcium in the oxytocin-induced contractions of the uterus
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The question as to whether calcium can be considered to be a mediator of oxytocin-induced myometrial contraction has been investigated. Assuming that the contraction is linearly proportional to the myoplasmic calcium concentration, several possible molecular mechanisms leading to its increase (calcium release from the cell membrane, acceleration of calcium transport from extracellular space by a 'gate' mechanism, release from intracellular organelles, blockade of calcium pumps) were modelled on an analog computer. The oxytocin intervention in the calcium distribution was mimicked by a discontinuous change of the appropriate rate constants. The computed transient simulating the myoplasmic calcium concentration was then compared with an experimental time profile of uterine tension. The result of screening the models shows that oxytocin must act predominantly via release of calcium bound to the cell membrane. A quantitative comparison, however, requires that the kinetics of oxytocin distribution in myometrium also be considered in the model. The problem treated in this paper demonstrates the possibilities and limitations of a screening procedure based upon direct comparison of time profiles of experimental processes with several computed model alternatives.
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