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Muscle contraction

This figure shows smooth muscle contraction. The left panel shows the structure of relaxed muscle and the right panel shows contracted muscle cells.
The dense bodies and intermediate filaments are networked through the sarcoplasm, which cause the muscle fiber to contract.

Although smooth muscle contraction relies on the presence of Ca ++ ions, smooth muscle fibers have a much smaller diameter than skeletal muscle cells. T-tubules are not required to reach the interior of the cell and therefore not necessary to transmit an action potential deep into the fiber. Smooth muscle fibers have a limited calcium-storing SR but have calcium channels in the sarcolemma (similar to cardiac muscle fibers) that open during the action potential along the sarcolemma. The influx of extracellular Ca ++ ions, which diffuse into the sarcoplasm to reach the calmodulin, accounts for most of the Ca ++ that triggers contraction of a smooth muscle cell.

Muscle contraction continues until ATP-dependent calcium pumps actively transport Ca ++ ions back into the SR and out of the cell. However, a low concentration of calcium remains in the sarcoplasm to maintain muscle tone. This remaining calcium keeps the muscle slightly contracted, which is important in certain tracts and around blood vessels.

Because most smooth muscles must function for long periods without rest, their power output is relatively low, but contractions can continue without using large amounts of energy. Some smooth muscle can also maintain contractions even as Ca ++ is removed and myosin kinase is inactivated/dephosphorylated. This can happen as a subset of cross-bridges between myosin heads and actin, called latch-bridges    , keep the thick and thin filaments linked together for a prolonged period, and without the need for ATP. This allows for the maintaining of muscle “tone” in smooth muscle that lines arterioles and other visceral organs with very little energy expenditure.

Smooth muscle is not under voluntary control; thus, it is called involuntary muscle. The triggers for smooth muscle contraction include hormones, neural stimulation by the ANS, and local factors. In certain locations, such as the walls of visceral organs, stretching the muscle can trigger its contraction (the stretch-relaxation response).

Axons of neurons in the ANS do not form the highly organized NMJs with smooth muscle, as seen between motor neurons and skeletal muscle fibers. Instead, there is a series of neurotransmitter-filled bulges called varicosities as an axon courses through smooth muscle, loosely forming motor units ( [link] ). A varicosity    releases neurotransmitters into the synaptic cleft. Also, visceral muscle in the walls of the hollow organs (except the heart) contains pacesetter cells. A pacesetter cell    can spontaneously trigger action potentials and contractions in the muscle.

Motor units

In this figure, the left panel shows a neuron with vesicles containing neurotransmitters. The right panel shows a bundle of smooth muscle cells with neurons wound around them.
A series of axon-like swelling, called varicosities or “boutons,” from autonomic neurons form motor units through the smooth muscle.

Smooth muscle is organized in two ways: as single-unit smooth muscle, which is much more common; and as multiunit smooth muscle. The two types have different locations in the body and have different characteristics. Single-unit muscle has its muscle fibers joined by gap junctions so that the muscle contracts as a single unit. This type of smooth muscle is found in the walls of all visceral organs except the heart (which has cardiac muscle in its walls), and so it is commonly called visceral muscle    . Because the muscle fibers are not constrained by the organization and stretchability limits of sarcomeres, visceral smooth muscle has a stress-relaxation response    . This means that as the muscle of a hollow organ is stretched when it fills, the mechanical stress of the stretching will trigger contraction, but this is immediately followed by relaxation so that the organ does not empty its contents prematurely. This is important for hollow organs, such as the stomach or urinary bladder, which continuously expand as they fill. The smooth muscle around these organs also can maintain a muscle tone when the organ empties and shrinks, a feature that prevents “flabbiness” in the empty organ. In general, visceral smooth muscle produces slow, steady contractions that allow substances, such as food in the digestive tract, to move through the body.

Multiunit smooth muscle cells rarely possess gap junctions, and thus are not electrically coupled. As a result, contraction does not spread from one cell to the next, but is instead confined to the cell that was originally stimulated. Stimuli for multiunit smooth muscles come from autonomic nerves or hormones but not from stretching. This type of tissue is found around large blood vessels, in the respiratory airways, and in the eyes.

Hyperplasia in smooth muscle

Similar to skeletal and cardiac muscle cells, smooth muscle can undergo hypertrophy to increase in size. Unlike other muscle, smooth muscle can also divide to produce more cells, a process called hyperplasia    . This can most evidently be observed in the uterus at puberty, which responds to increased estrogen levels by producing more uterine smooth muscle fibers, and greatly increases the size of the myometrium.

Sections summary

Smooth muscle is found throughout the body around various organs and tracts. Smooth muscle cells have a single nucleus, and are spindle-shaped. Smooth muscle cells can undergo hyperplasia, mitotically dividing to produce new cells. The smooth cells are nonstriated, but their sarcoplasm is filled with actin and myosin, along with dense bodies in the sarcolemma to anchor the thin filaments and a network of intermediate filaments involved in pulling the sarcolemma toward the fiber’s middle, shortening it in the process. Ca ++ ions trigger contraction when they are released from SR and enter through opened voltage-gated calcium channels. Smooth muscle contraction is initiated when the Ca ++ binds to intracellular calmodulin, which then activates an enzyme called myosin kinase that phosphorylates myosin heads so they can form the cross-bridges with actin and then pull on the thin filaments. Smooth muscle can be stimulated by pacesetter cells, by the autonomic nervous system, by hormones, spontaneously, or by stretching. The fibers in some smooth muscle have latch-bridges, cross-bridges that cycle slowly without the need for ATP; these muscles can maintain low-level contractions for long periods. Single-unit smooth muscle tissue contains gap junctions to synchronize membrane depolarization and contractions so that the muscle contracts as a single unit. Single-unit smooth muscle in the walls of the viscera, called visceral muscle, has a stress-relaxation response that permits muscle to stretch, contract, and relax as the organ expands. Multiunit smooth muscle cells do not possess gap junctions, and contraction does not spread from one cell to the next.

Questions & Answers

Functions of the thoracic cage
Fereh Reply
protect all the organs and tissues from any impact or injury
Javier
why sickle cell carrier people don't get malaria
Boakye Reply
What is the amniotic fluid
bollywood Reply
structure of heart and it's function (10 mark )
Priyanka Reply
What is the best book on physiology?
cesar Reply
describe varicocele
malulu
what do you mean by peritoneum
Siba Reply
It is thick covering surrounding the abdomen
Awais
r8
how to become good in Anatomy and physiology
malulu
hi
Milkah
hlo
Wani
What are is the last solution to abdomen pain in pregnant women
Umoru
no it is in kidney
Tantray
Kk
Umoru
structure of heart and it's function
Priyanka
Serous membrane lining the cavity of the abdomen
bollywood
it is four lobs structure and it is triangular in shaped. it 's function pumping the blood
ABDULLAH
explain root of lungs
ABDULLAH
Glomerular pressure -capsule pressure -colloid osmosis pressure
malulu Reply
how to describe mechanism of micturition
malulu
spleen is important?
AKASH Reply
helpful in destruction of rbc
It is imp in storing blood and destruction of microbes and harmful particles
Awais
ty sir
AKASH
K
Umoru
what are the sources of glucose in the body
malulu
describe mechanism of micturition
malulu
Pancreatic hormones with function
mami Reply
Insulin, which helps to regulate our blood sugar levels.
Bb
glucagon which is antagonistic to insulin increase the blood glucose level,. Somatostatin help to regulate the levels of both insulin and glucagon
Ashish
thnks for helping
nimco
thanks
Narendra
what is a lymph node.?
AKASH
lymph nodes are small kidney shaped organs of the lymphatic system.
Trishauna
there are several hundred lymph nodes found mostly throughout the thorax and abdomen of the body with the highest concentrations in the auxiliary (armpit) and inguinal groin regions.
Trishauna
what is life
Yar Reply
life is the existence of an individual human being animal or plant
Furmose
how I join this
Ahmed
meaning
Furmose
to day I am new person and I can't participate questions so to morow I shall participate question sopleas excuse me
Ahmed
I had a debate earlier about nutrition and it didn't get a clear answer on that,can one tell me what the definition of nutrition.?
kelvin
the nutrition is nourish person is feeling an nutrition
Ahmed
I think nutrition is the process of taking food and using it for growth, metabolism and repair.
Methila
life is full of happy and sorrow
Sanamacha
life is achievement
Nandini
life is the nothing but god gave us 1 body. and we all service k in this body. The things which we do for the Survivation for this body I felt that this is called as the life
AKASH
Yes God gave us life but not god who gave us the life. Hope u understood what i meant by God n not god who gave life..... ?
laku
What's the question?
Sherman Reply
once you lose pigmentation can you ever get it back
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Nandini
females are lesser prone to acne
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Janvi
described the skin
Yayra Reply
skin is outer covery of human body and it is largest organ of human body. it do three fauntion protection regulation and sensation of human body that is men fauntion of human skin it has seven part.
ABDULLAH
how thick is the epidermis?
Sovilace
the integumentary system is the largest system of the body 16% of body weight and 1.5 to 2m² in area
Trishauna
function of the endocrine system
Hamo Reply
produces hormones that plays specific functions
has endocrine gland calld as ductless gland so as produces hormones

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Source:  OpenStax, Anatomy & Physiology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 04, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11496/1.8
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