The Physiology of Smooth Muscle Cells in Tissue Culture

  • Robert D. Purves


Electrical recordings made from smooth muscles have always posed problems of interpretation. Early attempts at extracellular recording gave little insight into the peculiarities of electrogenesis in smooth muscle except in a few well-defined cases (for example, junctional transmission in the nictitating membrane; Eccles and Magladery, 1937). Even today the simpler forms of extracellular recording do not offer much more than an indication of whether or not electrical activity is present. The introduction of intracellular microelectrode techniques to smooth muscle physiology (Bülbring, 1954; Bülbring et al., 1958) allowed a much more accurate account of the membrane potential changes during activity. Three classes of potential change may be identified, although not all are present in any given smooth muscle: (1) action potentials, which usually provide the signal for contractions and whose upstrokes appear to result from an influx of calcium ions (Tomita, 1975); (2) depolarizing slow waves of several types that are seen in spontaneously active smooth muscle, notably in the intestine; and (3) junction potentials, which are the result of autonomic nerve activity and which may be either depolarizing or hyperpolarizing.


Smooth Muscle Smooth Muscle Cell Autonomic Nerve Activity Spontaneous Action Potential Taenia Coli 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert D. Purves
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Anatomy and EmbryologyUniversity College LondonLondonEngland

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