pH and smooth muscle

Acta Physiol Scand. 1997 Dec;161(4):557-66. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-201X.1997.00263.x.


In this paper, the control of vascular smooth muscle intracellular pH (pHi) and the mechanisms of importance for the vasodilation to acidosis are reviewed. The three transport pathways of importance for the control of pHi are a sodium-coupled bicarbonate transport, a Na,H-exchanger and a Cl,HCO3- exchange. While the two latter pathways are present in all smooth muscle cells studied, the sodium-coupled bicarbonate transport may be present in two forms which are either coupled to chloride efflux or are independent of chloride. The chloride-independent pathway seems electroneutral, indicating a 1:1 stoichiometry. All three transporters can be activated by vasoactive hormones and the second messengers involved are under intense investigation. With respect to the mechanisms involved in the vasodilation to acidosis, there seems to be a nitric oxide-dependent pathway as well as a direct effect of acidosis on the smooth muscle cells. In some preparations, prostanoids may also be involved. The direct vasodilator effect of acidosis is probably mediated through reduction of extracellular pH and the acidosis is associated with a reduction of the intracellular calcium concentration, which could explain the reduction of smooth muscle tone.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acidosis / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Bicarbonates / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / physiology*
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism
  • Prostaglandins / metabolism
  • Sodium-Hydrogen Exchangers / metabolism
  • Vasodilation / physiology


  • Bicarbonates
  • Prostaglandins
  • Sodium-Hydrogen Exchangers
  • Nitric Oxide