Origin and propagation of electrical slow waves in circular muscle of canine proximal colon

Am J Physiol. 1987 Feb;252(2 Pt 1):C215-24. doi: 10.1152/ajpcell.1987.252.2.C215.


Experiments to determine the site of slow-wave origin and the mechanism of propagation were performed on muscles of the canine proximal colon. Cells along the submucosal border of the circular layer had resting membrane potentials (RMP) averaging -78 mV, and slow waves, 40 mV in amplitude. The RMP of cells through the thickness of the circular layer decreased exponentially with distance from the submucosal border, such that RMPs of circular cells at the myenteric border were only -43 mV. Slow waves decreased in amplitude through the thickness such that slow waves could not be detected adjacent to the myenteric border. When a thin strip of muscle along the submucosal border was removed, slow waves were not recorded from the bulk of the circular layer and could not be evoked by acetylcholine. Slow waves were still present in the excised strip. Experiments to determine the rate of slow-wave propagation were also performed. Two cells were impaled, one at the submucosal surface, and another at some distance through the circular layer. Slow waves occurred nearly simultaneously at both sites. What latency was observed could be explained on the basis of electrotonic conduction. The results support the hypothesis that in the canine proximal colon slow waves are generated at the extreme submucosal surface of the circular layer. The bulk of the circular layer does not possess either pacemaker or regenerative mechanisms, and slow waves propagate passively toward the myenteric border. The cable properties of the circular muscle syncytium furnish a barrier to invasion of the longitudinal layer by the slow wave event.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / pharmacology
  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Colon / drug effects
  • Colon / physiology*
  • Dogs
  • Electrophysiology
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Motility
  • Male
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Muscle Contraction*


  • Acetylcholine