The role of propagated activity in the responses to agonist drugs was studied for the rat uterus and vas deferens. Hypertonic solutions were used to inhibit propagation of activity by shrinking cells. Tissue weight was used to indicate cell volume. Hypertonic solutions after 10 min caused weight loss and reduced the size of contractions in response to submaximal doses of drugs, to KCl, and to external electrical stimulation. Contractions in response to KCl and drugs were diminished to a similar degree in the vas deferens, but in the uterus, drug contractions were depressed much more. Prolonged action of hypertonic solution also differed for the two tissues. In the uterus, weight changes correlated with changes in size of the drug-induced contractions. Uterine contractions reduced in hypertonic solution could be increased by using supramaximal doses of drug. When stimulation was applied to one end of the uterus in a three compartment bath, propagation of spontaneous drug- and KCl-induced contraction occurred, but it was prevented by placing hypertonic solution in the center compartment. An increase of the KCl to 44 mM in the hypertonic solution restored propagation. These experiments yielded no evidence of propagated responses in the rat vas deferens. It was concluded that propagated activity plays a role in drug-induced contractions in the rat uterus but not in the rat vas deferens. Hyperpolarization of shrunken cells might be involved in inhibition of propagation by hypertonic solutions.

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