Acid-induced esophagitis is associated with sustained longitudinal smooth muscle (LSM) contraction and consequent esophageal shortening. In addition, LSM strips from opossums with esophagitis are hyper-responsive, while the circular smooth muscle (CSM) contractility is impaired. To determine the origin of these changes, studies were performed on esophageal smooth muscle cells isolated from opossum esophagi perfused intraluminally on 3 consecutive days with either saline (control; n = 8) or HCl (n = 9). CSM and LSM cells, obtained by enzymatic digestion, were exposed to various concentrations of carbachol (CCh) and fixed. CCh induced concentration-dependent contraction of both LSM and CSM cells. CCh-induced LSM cell contraction was not different between control and esophagitis animals; however, there was marked attenuation in the CCh-induced contraction of CSM cells from esophagitis animals. Morphological studies revealed significant hypertrophy of the CSM cells. These findings suggest that impaired CSM contractility can be attributed at least in part to alterations to the CSM cell itself. In contrast, hyper-contractility demonstrated in LSM strips is likely related to factors in the surrounding tissue.