, Volume 41, Issue 8, pp 1006-1010

The role of myosin phosphorylation in the contraction-relaxation cycle of smooth muscle

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Considerable evidence from a variety of experimental procedures indicates that the phosphorylation of myosin is involved in the regulation of contractile activity in smooth muscle. Phosphorylation of the 20,000-dalton myosin light chains is required to initiate crossbridge cycling and this is consistent with the observation that the actin-activated Mg2+-ATPase activity of myosin is phosphorylation-dependent. In the simplest interpretation of this process it may be proposed that phosphorylation acts as an ‘on-off’ switch. Clearly this cannot explain the observed complexity of smooth muscle contractile behavior and such may imply either that additional mechanisms are involved or that the role of myosin phosphorylation is not fully appreciated. Recently it has been shown that monomeric smooth muscle myosin can exist in a ‘folded’ and an ‘extended’ conformation and that each form is characterized by distinct enzymatic properties. Under appropriate solvent conditions phosphorylation of myosin favors the extended conformation. It is tentatively suggest that this, or an analogous, transition might be involved in the regulation of the smooth muscle contractile apparatus, and this possibility is discussed.

The authors are supported by grants HL 23615 and HL 20984 from the National Institutes of Health.