Review Article

Myosin crossbridge, contractile unit, and the mechanism of contraction in airway smooth muscle: A mechanical engineer's perspective

[+] Author and Article Information
Chun Seow

Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Centre for Heart Lung Innovation, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada, V6Z 1Y6

1Corresponding author.

ASME doi:10.1115/1.4042479 History: Received September 06, 2018; Revised December 20, 2018


Muscle contraction is caused by the action of myosin motors within the structural confines of contractile unit arrays. When the force generated by cyclic interactions between myosin crossbridges and actin filaments is greater than the average load shared by the crossbridges, sliding of the actin filaments occurs and the muscle shortens. The shortening velocity as a function of muscle load can be described mathematically by a hyperbola; this characteristic force-velocity relationship stems from stochastic interactions between the crossbridges and the actin filaments. Beyond the actomyosin interaction there is not yet a unified theory explaining smooth muscle contraction, mainly because the structure of the contractile unit in smooth muscle (akin to the sarcomere in striated muscle) is still undefined. In this review, functional and structural data from airway smooth muscle are analyzed in an engineering approach of quantification and correlation to support a model of contractile unit with characteristics revealed by mathematical analyses and behavior matched by experimental observation.

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