Actin cytoskeletal dynamics in smooth muscle contraction.Can J Physiol Pharmacol. 2005 Oct; 83(10):851-6.CJ
Smooth muscles develop isometric force over a very wide range of cell lengths. The molecular mechanisms of this phenomenon are undefined, but are described as reflecting "mechanical plasticity" of smooth muscle cells. Plasticity is defined here as a persistent change in cell structure or function in response to a change in the environment. Important environmental stimuli that trigger muscle plasticity include chemical (e.g., neurotransmitters, autacoids, and cytokines) and external mechanical signals (e.g., applied stress and strain). Both kinds of signals are probably transduced by ionic and protein kinase signaling cascades to alter gene expression patterns and changes in the cytoskeleton and contractile system. Defining the signaling mechanisms and effector proteins mediating phenotypic and mechanical plasticity of smooth muscles is a major goal in muscle cell biology. Some of the signaling cascades likely to be important include calcium-dependent protein kinases, small GTPases (Rho, Rac, cdc42), Rho kinase, protein kinase C (PKC), Src family tyrosine kinases, mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinases, and p21 activated protein kinases (PAK). There are many potential targets for these signaling cascades including nuclear processes, metabolic pathways, and structural components of the cytoskeleton. There is growing appreciation of the dynamic nature of the actin cytoskeleton in smooth muscles and the necessity for actin remodeling to occur during contraction. The actin cytoskeleton serves many functions that are probably critical for muscle plasticity including generation and transmission of force vectors, determination of cell shape, and assembly of signal transduction machinery. Evidence is presented showing that actin filaments are dynamic and that actin-associated proteins comprising the contractile element and actin attachment sites are necessary for smooth muscle contraction.