Smooth muscle in the gut and airways

  • Giorgio Gabella
Part of the Electron Microscopy in Biology and Medicine book series (EMBM, volume 8)


The main muscle component of the gastrointestinal tract of vertebrates is a layer of smooth muscle known as the muscularis externa or muscle coat (Fig. 7-1). Additional musculature is found in the muscularis mucosae, in the core of intestinal villi, in the media of blood vessels, and as individual muscle cells in the core of villi. The muscle coat varies greatly in thickness in different regions of the gut and in different animal species. In the ileum of man it measures, at rest, over one millimeter, while in a mouse it is less than 50 micrometers. In a given animal, the thickness of the muscle coat in the jejunum and ileum is uniform around the circumference and along the length of the organ. In the initial part of the duodenum, the muscle is almost twice as thick as in the rest of the small intestine. In the large intestine the musculature is more abundant than in the small intestine. In any part of the gut, upon full contraction the thickness of the muscle coat can treble.


Collagen Fibril Elastic Fiber Longitudinal Muscle Circular Muscle Myenteric Plexus 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Giorgio Gabella
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Anatomy and Developmental BiologyUniversity College LondonLondonEngland

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