Selected contribution: Plasticity of airway smooth muscle stiffness and extensibility: Role of length-adaptive mechanisms

Susan J. Gunst, Ming Fang Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

103 Scopus citations


Airway smooth muscle exhibits the property of length adaptation, which enables it to optimize its contractility to the mechanical conditions under which it is activated. Length adaptation has been proposed to result from a dynamic modulation of contractile and cytoskeletal filament organization, in which the cell structure adapts to changes in cell shape at different muscle lengths. Changes in filament organization would be predicted to alter muscle stiffness and extensibility. We analyzed the effects of tracheal muscle length at the time of contractile activation on the stiffness and extensibility of the muscle during subsequent stretch over a constant range of muscle lengths. Muscle strips were significantly stiffer and less extensible after contractile activation at a short length than after activation at a long length, consistent with the prediction of a shorter, thicker array of the cytoskeletal filaments at a short muscle length. Stretch beyond the length of contractile activation resulted in a persistent reduction in stiffness, suggesting a stretch-induced structural rearrangement. Our results support a model in which the filament organization of airway smooth muscle cells is plastic and can be acutely remodeled to adapt to the changes in the external physical environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)741-749
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2001


  • Airway responsiveness
  • Deep inspiration
  • Length adaptation
  • Stretch
  • Tidal breathing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Endocrinology
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Selected contribution: Plasticity of airway smooth muscle stiffness and extensibility: Role of length-adaptive mechanisms'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this