To investigate the mechanism of smooth muscle contraction, the frequency response of the muscle stiffness of single β-escin permeabilized smooth muscle cells in the relaxed state was studied. Also, the response was continuously monitored for 3 min from the beginning of the exchange of relaxing solution to activating solution, and then at 5-min intervals for up to 20 min. The frequency response (30 Hz bandwidth, 0.33 Hz (or 0.2 Hz) resolution) was calculated from the Fourier-transformed force and length sampled during a 3-s (or 5-s) constant-amplitude length perturbation of increasing-frequency (1-32 Hz) sine waves. In the re axed state, a large negative phase angle was observed, which suggests the existence of attached energy generating cross-bridges. As the activation progressed, the muscle stiffness and phase angle steadily increased; these increases gradually extended to higher frequencies, and reached a steady state by 100 s after activation or ~40 s after stiffness began to increase. The results suggest that a fixed distribution of cross-bridge states was reached after 40 s of Ca2+ activation and the cross-bridge cycling rate did not change during the period of force maintenance.
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