Chemically skinned fibers from guinea pig taenia caecum were prepared by saponin treatment to study the smooth muscle contractile system in a state as close to the living state as posible. The skinned fibers showed tension development with an increase of Ca2+ in the solution, the threshold tension occurring as 5 X 10(-7) M Ca2+. The maximal tension induced with 10(-4) M Ca2+ was as large and rapid as the potassium-induced contracture in the intact fibers. The slope of the pCa tension curve was less steep than that of skeletal muscle fibers and shifted in the direction of lower pCa with an increase of MgATP. The presence of greater than 1 mM Mg2+ was required for Ca2+-induced contraction in the skinned fibers as well as for the activation of ATPase and superprecipitation in smooth muscle myosin B. Mg2+ above 2 mM caused a slow tension development by itself in the absence of Ca2+. Such a Mg2+-induced tension showed a linear relation to concentrations up to 8 mM in the presence of MgATP. Increase of MgATP concentration revealed a monophasic response without inhibition of Ca2+-induced tension development, unlike the biphasic response in striated muscle. When MgATP was removed from the relaxing solution, the tension developed slowly and slightly, even though the Mg2+ concentrations was fixed at 2 mM. These results suggest a substantial difference in the mode of actin-myosin interaction between smooth and skeletal muscle.

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