Recruitment of smooth muscle cells and arterial vasomotion.
Investigating the recruitment and synchronization of smooth muscle cells (SMCs) is the key to understanding the physical mechanisms leading to contraction and spontaneous diameter oscillations of arteries, called vasomotion. We improved a method that allows the correlation of calcium oscillations (flashing) of individual SMCs with mean calcium variations and arterial contraction using confocal microscopy. Endothelium-stripped rat mesenteric arteries were cut open, loaded with dual calcium fluorescence probes, and stimulated by increasing concentrations of the vasoconstrictors phenylephrine (PE) and KCl. We found that the number and synchronization of flashing cells depends on vasoconstrictor concentration. At low vasoconstrictor concentration, few cells flash asynchronously and no local contraction is detected. At medium concentration, recruitment of cells is complete and synchronous, leading to strip contraction after KCl stimulation and to vasomotion after PE stimulation. High concentration of PE leads to synchronous calcium oscillations and fully contracted vessels, whereas high concentration of KCl leads to a sustained nonoscillating increase of calcium and to fully contracted vessels. We conclude that the number of simultaneously recruited cells is an important factor in controlling rat mesenteric artery contraction and vasomotion.