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This article has been peer reviewed. It is the authors' final version prior to publication in The Journal of general physiology.

Volume 119, Issue 6, June 2002, Pages 533-44.

The published version is available at DOI: 10.1085/jgp.200285141. Copyright © Rockefeller Press.


Smooth muscle cells undergo substantial increases in length, passively stretching during increases in intraluminal pressure in vessels and hollow organs. Active contractile responses to counteract increased transmural pressure were first described almost a century ago (Bayliss, 1902) and several mechanisms have been advanced to explain this phenomenon. We report here that elongation of smooth muscle cells results in ryanodine receptor-mediated Ca(2+) release in individual myocytes. Mechanical elongation of isolated, single urinary bladder myocytes to approximately 120% of slack length (DeltaL = 20) evoked Ca(2+) release from intracellular stores in the form of single Ca(2+) sparks and propagated Ca(2+) waves. Ca(2+) release was not due to calcium-induced calcium release, as release was observed in Ca(2+)-free extracellular solution and when free Ca(2+) ions in the cytosol were strongly buffered to prevent increases in [Ca(2+)](i). Stretch-induced calcium release (SICR) was not affected by inhibition of InsP(3)R-mediated Ca(2+) release, but was completely blocked by ryanodine. Release occurred in the absence of previously reported stretch-activated currents; however, SICR evoked calcium-activated chloride currents in the form of transient inward currents, suggesting a regulatory mechanism for the generation of spontaneous currents in smooth muscle. SICR was also observed in individual myocytes during stretch of intact urinary bladder smooth muscle segments. Thus, longitudinal stretch of smooth muscle cells induces Ca(2+) release through gating of RYR. SICR may be an important component of the physiological response to increases in luminal pressure in smooth muscle tissues.

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