A model of smooth muscle cell synchronization in the arterial wall

Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2007 Jul;293(1):H229-37. doi: 10.1152/ajpheart.00727.2006. Epub 2007 Mar 16.


Vasomotion is a rhythmic variation in microvascular diameter. Although known for more than 150 years, the cellular processes underlying the initiation of vasomotion are not fully understood. In the present study a model of a single cell is extended by coupling a number of cells into a tube. The simulated results point to a permissive role of cGMP in establishing intercellular synchronization. In sufficient concentration, cGMP may activate a cGMP-sensitive calcium-dependent chloride channel, causing a tight spatiotemporal coupling between release of sarcoplasmic reticulum calcium, membrane depolarization, and influx of extracellular calcium. Low [cGMP] is associated only with unsynchronized waves. At intermediate concentrations, cells display either waves or whole cell oscillations, but these remain unsynchronized between cells. Whole cell oscillations are associated with rhythmic variation in membrane potential and flow of current through gap junctions. The amplitude of these oscillations in potential grows with increasing [cGMP], and, past a certain threshold, they become strong enough to entrain all cells in the vascular wall, thereby initiating sustained vasomotion. In this state there is a rhythmic flow of calcium through voltage-sensitive calcium channels into the cytoplasm, making the frequency of established vasomotion sensitive to membrane potential. It is concluded that electrical coupling through gap junctions is likely to be responsible for the rapid synchronization across a large number of cells. Gap-junctional current between cells is due to the appearance of oscillations in the membrane potential that again depends on the entrainment of sarcoplasmic reticulum and plasma membrane within the individual cell.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Clocks / physiology*
  • Cell Communication / physiology*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Humans
  • Models, Cardiovascular*
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology*
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / physiology*
  • Myocytes, Smooth Muscle / physiology*
  • Vasoconstriction / physiology*
  • Vasomotor System / physiology