UMMS Affiliation

Department of Physiology

Publication Date


Document Type



Animals; Elasticity; Kinetics; Muscle Contraction; Muscle, Smooth; Myosins; Time Factors


Kinesiology | Physiology


Force development in smooth muscle, as in skeletal muscle, is believed to reflect recruitment of force-generating myosin cross-bridges. However, little is known about the events underlying cross-bridge recruitment as the muscle cell approaches peak isometric force and then enters a period of tension maintenance. In the present studies on single smooth muscle cells isolated from the toad (Bufo marinus) stomach muscularis, active muscle stiffness, calculated from the force response to small sinusoidal length changes (0.5% cell length, 250 Hz), was utilized to estimate the relative number of attached cross-bridges. By comparing stiffness during initial force development to stiffness during force redevelopment immediately after a quick release imposed at peak force, we propose that the instantaneous active stiffness of the cell reflects both a linearly elastic cross-bridge element having 1.5 times the compliance of the cross-bridge in frog skeletal muscle and a series elastic component having an exponential length-force relationship. At the onset of force development, the ratio of stiffness to force was 2.5 times greater than at peak isometric force. These data suggest that, upon activation, cross-bridges attach in at least two states (i.e., low-force-producing and high-force-producing) and redistribute to a steady state distribution at peak isometric force. The possibility that the cross-bridge cycling rate was modulated with time was also investigated by analyzing the time course of tension recovery to small, rapid step length changes (0.5% cell length in 2.5 ms) imposed during initial force development, at peak force, and after 15 s of tension maintenance. The rate of tension recovery slowed continuously throughout force development following activation and slowed further as force was maintained. Our results suggest that the kinetics of force production in smooth muscle may involve a redistribution of cross-bridge populations between two attached states and that the average cycling rate of these cross-bridges becomes slower with time during contraction.


J Gen Physiol. 1988 Jun;91(6):761-79.

Journal/Book/Conference Title

The Journal of general physiology

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PubMed ID