Ionic mechanisms and Ca2+ regulation in airway smooth muscle contraction: do the data contradict dogma?
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In general, excitation-contraction coupling in muscle is dependent on membrane depolarization and hyperpolarization to regulate the opening of voltage-dependent Ca(2+) channels and, thereby, influence intracellular Ca(2+) concentration ([Ca(2+)](i)). Thus Ca(2+) channel blockers and K(+) channel openers are important tools in the arsenals against hypertension, stroke, and myocardial infarction, etc. Airway smooth muscle (ASM) also exhibits robust Ca(2+), K(+), and Cl(-) currents, and there are elaborate signaling pathways that regulate them. It is easy, then, to presume that these also play a central role in contraction/relaxation of ASM. However, several lines of evidence speak to the contrary. Also, too many researchers in the ASM field view the sarcoplasmic reticulum as being centrally located and displacing its contents uniformly throughout the cell, and they have focused almost exclusively on the initial single [Ca(2+)] spike evoked by excitatory agonists. Several recent studies have revealed complex spatial and temporal heterogeneity in [Ca(2+)](i), the significance of which is only just beginning to be appreciated. In this review, we will compare what is known about ion channels in ASM with what is believed to be their roles in ASM physiology. Also, we will examine some novel ionic mechanisms in the context of Ca(2+) handling and excitation-contraction coupling in ASM.
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