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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

elasticity of the vagina
Mariam Reply
The vagina is an elastic muscular wall
antouman
*organ
antouman
It has I think squamous cuboidal or maybe columnar epithelium designed for secretion, expansion and friction.
Patrick
how can you remember the integumentary system
Naomi Reply
integumentary system is the skin the skin is protection all the body and contain deid cells
Drs
how can you remember the formation of bone?
Maame
the largest organ of the body
Toni
skin is largest organ
Zara
what is the best way to remember the cranial bones or any other bones ?
Savannah
skeletal system?
Savannah
look at the diagram structure and then remember it considering it your own body i memorise like that
Zara
hi guys! do you have to remember ALL the structures of the bones- I mean every single hole, depression or tuberosity?
Kristina
tuborisity
Zara
hey guz i hv to remember Immune antibodies and antigens how? i found it difficult
Zara
well, they are all grouped, aren't they? I mean they all come in series like H1, H2A, H2B and so on. In this case I learn the common part first and then that what's different
Kristina
nd what about IgG , IgE etc.
Zara
the majors
Toni
blood is a connective tissue which transport oxygen and other nutrients to body
Zara Reply
which type of protein is blood?
Zara
what is blood?
Masthan Reply
blood is a connective tissue which transport oxygen and nutrients to body
Zara
which type of protein is blood?
Zara
haemoglobin
Rashid
and what about its structure i think its Quartenary structure 🤔💭
Zara
yes it is
Rashid
it is globular
Rashid
a vascular structure compose of vessels.
Toni
what is the functions of lymph
moula Reply
what is plasma
Chukwu Reply
A plasma is a hot ionized gas consisting of approximately af a equal number of positive ly charged ionized and negative ly charged electron is called plasma.
Muhammad
what is an atomical position?
Madinatu
military position, body erect where by the body will be up straight..the cephalic and thoracic are straight
Mwita
functions of plasma membrane
Dinyando Reply
what is heparin
Lawrence Reply
why is it anatomy
Tenacious Reply
hello
ASIMENU
hi
asare
hws life
Tenacious
anatomy is the scientific study of the body's structure
Lawrence
great
Lawrence
good night
Kaaya
anatomy is the study of form, physiology is the study of function
Patrick
anatomy is the study of the structure of the body and the physical relationship between it constituent part
Florence
what is heparin
Lawrence
what is the trunk
Tenacious
trunk is define as a person's or animal's body apart from the limp and head
Lawrence
The trunk is part of the axial skeleton
Patrick
hellow friends
mickson
hi friends
mickson
Hi
REEMA
hii
sampath
hi
Inayat
am fine
Ematai
supine or dorsal position is used in clinical setting when patient is placed in position, to examine what?
Dinyando Reply
what do nurses/doctors detect when a patient is placed on dorsal position?
Dinyando
What is coroid process?
kelvin Reply
describe special situation with implications in medical ethics.
kelvin
what is the difference between anatomy and physiology
Dinyando Reply
anatomy is the study of human body . and physiology is the study of the brain
Maryiam
ok
Varun
hi friends
Varun
hi!
kelvin
hello
Maryiam
anatomy is the study of the human body,its form and it physical relations Whiles Physiology is the Study of the functions of the various part of the body
Madinatu
yes
Yeboah
hi friends
mickson
sorry I cant see the full question
Jessica Reply
what was the question?
evelyna
what is spine as a bone marking?
John
similar to a crest but raised more
evelyna
pointed process
evelyna
slender
evelyna
pointed projection i meant
evelyna
what fills the hallow space in the middle of bones? thanks
John
marrow
evelyna
bone marrow
evelyna
hey you gotta read a book
evelyna
i just happen to take this bone chapter in my book last week so i remember
evelyna
yeah i should. how about the correct match of the number of tarsal, metatarsal and phalanges?
John
10, fingers and toes, u know this
Patrick
what is the difference between basal laminal and basal membrane
Nartey Reply
I think they r the same
Patrick
If one is missing the opsin which detects wavelengths of approximately 560 nm what color would they be unable to see?
Alicia Reply

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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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