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The local environment surrounding airway smooth muscle (ASM) cells has profound effects on the physiological and phenotypic properties of ASM tissues. ASM is continually subjected to the mechanical forces generated during breathing and to the constituents of its surrounding extracellular milieu. The smooth muscle cells within the airways continually modulate their properties to adapt to these changing environmental influences. Smooth muscle cells connect to the extracellular cell matrix (ECM) at membrane adhesion junctions that provide mechanical coupling between smooth muscle cells within the tissue. Membrane adhesion junctions also sense local environmental signals and transduce them to cytoplasmic and nuclear signaling pathways in the ASM cell. Adhesion junctions are composed of clusters of transmembrane integrin proteins that bind to ECM proteins outside the cell and to large multiprotein complexes in the submembranous cytoplasm. Physiological conditions and stimuli from the surrounding ECM are sensed by integrin proteins and transduced by submembranous adhesion complexes to signaling pathways to the cytoskeleton and nucleus. The transmission of information between the local environment of the cells and intracellular processes enables ASM cells to rapidly adapt their physiological properties to modulating influences in their extracellular environment: mechanical and physical forces that impinge on the cell, ECM constituents, local mediators, and metabolites. The structure and molecular organization of adhesion junction complexes and the actin cytoskeleton are dynamic and constantly changing in response to environmental influences. The ability of ASM to rapidly accommodate to the ever-changing conditions and fluctuating physical forces within its local environment is essential for its normal physiological function.


Wenwu Zhang, Yidi Wu, Susan J Gunst. Membrane adhesion junctions regulate airway smooth muscle phenotype and function. Physiological reviews. 2023 Jul 01;103(3):2321-2347

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PMID: 36796098

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