A 'Good' muscle in a 'Bad' environment: the importance of airway smooth muscle force adaptation to airway hyperresponsiveness

Respir Physiol Neurobiol. 2011 Dec 15;179(2-3):269-75. doi: 10.1016/j.resp.2011.09.003. Epub 2011 Sep 14.


Asthma is characterized by airway inflammation, with a consequent increase in spasmogens, and exaggerated airway narrowing in response to stimuli, termed airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR). The nature of any relationship between inflammation and AHR is less clear. Recent ex vivo data has suggested a novel mechanism by which inflammation may lead to AHR, in which increased basal ASM-tone, due to the presence of spasmogens in the airways, may "strengthen" the ASM and ultimately lead to exaggerated airway narrowing. This phenomenon was termed "force adaptation" [Bossé, Y., Chin, L.Y., Paré, P.D., Seow, C.Y., 2009. Adaptation of airway smooth muscle to basal tone: relevance to airway hyperresponsiveness. Am. J. Respir. Cell Mol. Biol. 40, 13-18]. However, it is unknown whether the magnitude of the effect of force adaptation ex vivo could contribute to exaggerated airway narrowing in vivo. Our aim was to utilize a computational model of ASM shortening in order to quantify the potential effect of force adaptation on airway narrowing when all other mechanical factors were kept constant. The shortening in the model is dictated by a balance between physiological loads and ASM force-generating capacity at different lengths. The results suggest that the magnitude of the effect of force adaptation on ASM shortening would lead to substantially more airway narrowing during bronchial challenge at any given airway generation. We speculate that the increased basal ASM-tone in asthma, due to the presence of inflammation-derived spasmogens, produces an increase in the force-generating capacity of ASM, predisposing to AHR during subsequent challenge.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Bronchial Hyperreactivity / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Muscle Tonus / physiology*
  • Muscle, Smooth / physiopathology*