Determinants of the contractile properties in the embryonic chicken gizzard and aorta

Ozgur Ogut, Frank V. Brozovich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Smooth muscle is generally grouped into two classes of differing contractile properties. Tonic smooth muscles show slow rates of force activation and relaxation and slow speeds of shortening (V(max)) but force maintenance, whereas phasic smooth muscles show poor force maintenance but have fast V(max) and rapid rates of force activation and relaxation. We characterized the development of gizzard and aortic smooth muscle in embryonic chicks to identify the cellular determinants that define phasic (gizzard) and tonic (aortic) contractile properties. Early during development, tonic contractile properties are the default for both tissues. The gizzard develops phasic contractile properties between embryonic days (ED) 12 and 20, characterized primarily by rapid rates of force activation and relaxation compared with the aorta. The rapid rate of force activation correlates with expression of the acidic isoform of the 17-kDa essential myosin light chain (MLC(17a)). Previous data from in vitro motility assays (Rover AS, Frezon Y, and Trybus KM. J Muscle Res Cell Motil 18: 103-110, 1997) have postulated that myosin heavy chain (MHC) isoform expression is a determinant for V(max) in intact tissues. In the current study, differences in V(max) did not correlate with previously published differences in MHC or MLC(17a) isoforms. Rather, V(max) was increased with thiophosphorylation of the 20-kDa regulatory myosin light chain (MLC20) in the gizzard, suggesting that a significant internal load exists. Furthermore, V(max) in the gizzard increased during postnatal development without changes in MHC or MLC17 isoforms. Although the rate of MLC20 phosphorylation was similar at ED 20, the rate of MLC20 dephosphorylation was significantly higher in the gizzard versus the aorta, correlating with expression of the M130 isoform of the myosin binding subunit in the myosin light chain phosphatase (MLCP) holoenzyme. These results indicate that unique MLCP and MLC17 isoform expression marks the phasic contractile phenotype.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)C1722-C1732
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Cell Physiology
Issue number6 48-6
StatePublished - 2000


  • 17-kilodalton myosin light chain
  • Development
  • Force
  • Phasic contractile properties
  • Tonic smooth muscle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cell Biology


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