Chronic oscillatory strain induces MLCK associated rapid recovery from acute stretch in airway smooth muscle cells

Sarah C. Connolly, Paul G. Smith, Nigel J. Fairbank, Carolyn A. Lall, Darren J. Cole, James D. MacKinnon, Geoffrey N. Maksym

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


A deep inspiration (DI) temporarily relaxes agonist-constricted airways in normal subjects, but in asthma airways are refractory and may rapidly renarrow, possibly due to changes in the structure and function of airway smooth muscle (ASM). Chronic largely uniaxial cyclic strain of ASM cells in culture causes several structural and functional changes in ASM similar to that in asthma, including increases in contractility, MLCK content, shortening velocity, and shortening capacity. However, changes in recovery from acute stretch similar to a DI have not been measured. We have therefore measured the response and recovery to large stretches of cells modified by chronic stretching and investigated the role of MLCK. Chronic, 10% uniaxial cyclic stretch, with or without a strain gradient, was administered for up to 11 days to cultured cells grown on Silastic membranes. Single cells were then removed from the membrane and subjected to 1 Hz oscillatory stretches up to 10% of the in situ cell length. These oscillations reduced stiffness by 66% in all groups (P ± 0.05). Chronically strained cells recovered stiffness three times more rapidly than unstrained cells, while the strain gradient had no effect. The stiffness recovery in unstrained cells was completely inhibited by the MLCK inhibitor ML-7, but recovery in strained cells exhibiting increased MLCK was slightly inhibited. These data suggest that chronic strain leads to enhanced recovery from acute stretch, which may be attributable to the strain-induced increases in MLCK. This may also explain in part the more rapid renarrowing of activated airways following DI in asthma.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)955-963
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2011


  • Asthma
  • Deep inspiration
  • Length-tension
  • Mechanical strain
  • Stretch-induced softening


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