Mechanisms of Vascular Smooth Muscle Contraction and the Basis for Pharmacologic Treatment of Smooth Muscle Disorders

Pharmacol Rev. 2016 Apr;68(2):476-532. doi: 10.1124/pr.115.010652.


The smooth muscle cell directly drives the contraction of the vascular wall and hence regulates the size of the blood vessel lumen. We review here the current understanding of the molecular mechanisms by which agonists, therapeutics, and diseases regulate contractility of the vascular smooth muscle cell and we place this within the context of whole body function. We also discuss the implications for personalized medicine and highlight specific potential target molecules that may provide opportunities for the future development of new therapeutics to regulate vascular function.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Calcium / physiology
  • Cytoskeleton / physiology
  • Epigenomics
  • Humans
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology*
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / metabolism
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / physiology*
  • Myosins / metabolism
  • Vascular Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Vascular Diseases / genetics
  • Vascular Diseases / metabolism
  • Vascular Diseases / physiopathology


  • Myosins
  • Calcium