Excitation-contraction coupling in gastrointestinal and other smooth muscles

Annu Rev Physiol. 1999:61:85-115. doi: 10.1146/annurev.physiol.61.1.85.


The main contributors to increases in [Ca2+]i and tension are the entry of Ca2+ through voltage-dependent channels opened by depolarization or during action potential (AP) or slow-wave discharge, and Ca2+ release from store sites in the cell by the action of IP3 or by Ca(2+)-induced Ca(2+)-release (CICR). The entry of Ca2+ during an AP triggers CICR from up to 20 or more subplasmalemmal store sites (seen as hot spots, using fluorescent indicators); Ca2+ waves then spread from these hot spots, which results in a rise in [Ca2+]i throughout the cell. Spontaneous transient releases of store Ca2+, previously detected as spontaneous transient outward currents (STOCs), are seen as sparks when fluorescent indicators are used. Sparks occur at certain preferred locations--frequent discharge sites (FDSs)--and these and hot spots may represent aggregations of sarcoplasmic reticulum scattered throughout the cytoplasm. Activation of receptors for excitatory signal molecules generally depolarizes the cell while it increases the production of IP3 (causing calcium store release) and diacylglycerols (which activate protein kinases). Activation of receptors for inhibitory signal molecules increases the activity of protein kinases through increases in cAMP or cGMP and often hyperpolarizes the cell. Other receptors link to tyrosine kinases, which trigger signal cascades interacting with trimeric G-protein systems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Digestive System / cytology
  • Digestive System Physiological Phenomena*
  • Gastrointestinal Motility / physiology*
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Humans
  • Muscle, Smooth / cytology
  • Muscle, Smooth / physiology*
  • Ryanodine Receptor Calcium Release Channel / physiology
  • Sarcoplasmic Reticulum / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / physiology


  • Ryanodine Receptor Calcium Release Channel
  • Calcium