Airway smooth muscle electrophysiology in a state of flux?
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Activation of chloride currents and release of internally sequestered Ca(2+) in airway smooth muscle have long been associated with excitation and contraction. Surprisingly, however, two recent publications (Deshpande DA, Wang WC, McIlmoyle EL, Robinett KS, Schillinger RM, An SS, Sham JS, Liggett SB. Nat Med 16: 1299-1304, 2010; Gallos G, Yim P, Chang S, Zhang Y, Xu D, Cook JM, Gerthoffer WT, Emala CW Sr. Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol 302: L248-L256, 2012) have linked both events to relaxation. This begs a closer look at our understanding of airway smooth muscle electrophysiology and its contribution to excitation-contraction coupling. This Editorial Focus highlights those two aforementioned studies and several other equally paradoxical findings and proposes some possible reinterpretations of the data and/or new directions of research in which the answers might be found.
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