In contrast to striated muscle, measurements on strips of smooth muscle cannot be uniquely interpreted in terms of an array of contractile units. Therefore scaling down to the single-cell level is necessary to gain detailed understanding of the contractile process in this type of muscle. The present study describes the development of a method for isolating contractile single smooth muscle cells from pig urinary bladders. Contractile responses evoked by individual electrical stimulation were used as a measure of cell quality during development of the method. Responses were evaluated by measuring latency, contraction and relaxation times, as indicated by visible length changes, and stored on-line in a computer. Initial length, relative shortening and shortening speed were determined by measuring cell lengths in previously timed still video frames using a computer-controlled crosshair device. Increase of stimulus pulse duration resulted in improved responses, indicating that the observed shortening represented a physiological contractile response. Ultimately this method of evaluation was applied to two sets of cell preparations obtained by two different methods, one using only collagenase digestion, the other using mechanical manipulation as well. Both sets showed two main patterns of response to electrical stimulation: a pattern of contraction upon stimulation followed by enhanced contraction when stimulation was switched off (CK), and a pattern of contraction upon stimulation followed by relaxation when the stimulus was switched off (CR). The set of preparations containing the highest percentage of CR cells was found to be superior (i.e. greater initial length, shorter latency and contraction times, increased shortening and higher shortening speed). The method of isolation used for this set gives a high yield of contractile cells available for experimental use over a long span of time.

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Journal of Muscle Research and Cell Motility
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Glerum, J., van Mastrigt, R., Romijn, J., & Griffiths, D. (1987). Isolation and individual electrical stimulation of single smooth-muscle cells from the urinary bladder of the pig. Journal of Muscle Research and Cell Motility, 8(2), 125–134. doi:10.1007/BF01753988