Microtubule structures underlying the sarcoplasmic reticulum support peripheral coupling sites to regulate smooth muscle contractility

Harry A.T. Pritchard, Albert L. Gonzales, Paulo W. Pires, Bernard T. Drumm, Eun A. Ko, Kenton M. Sanders, Grant W. Hennig, Scott Earley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Junctional membrane complexes facilitate excitation-contraction coupling in skeletal and cardiac muscle cells by forming subcellular invaginations that maintain close (<20 nm) proximity of ryanodine receptors (RyRs) on the sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) with voltage-dependent Ca2+ channels in the plasma membrane. In fully differentiated smooth muscle cells, junctional membrane complexes occur as distributed sites of peripheral coupling. We investigated the role of the cytoskeleton in maintaining peripheral coupling and associated Ca2+ signaling networks within native smooth muscle cells of mouse and rat cerebral arteries. Using live-cell confocal and superresolution microscopy, we found that the tight interactions between the SR and the plasma membrane in these cells relied on arching microtubule structures present at the periphery of smooth muscle cells and were independent of the actin cytoskeleton. Loss of peripheral coupling associated with microtubule depolymerization altered the spatiotemporal properties of localized Ca2+ sparks generated by the release of Ca2+ through type 2 RyRs (RyR2s) on the SR and decreased the number of sites of colocalization between RyR2s and large-conductance Ca2+-activated K+ (BK) channels. The reduced BK channel activity associated with the loss of SR-plasma membrane interactions was accompanied by increased pressure-induced constriction of cerebral resistance arteries. We conclude that microtubule structures maintain peripheral coupling in contractile smooth muscle cells, which is crucial for the regulation of contractility and cerebral vascular tone.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbereaan2694
JournalScience signaling
Issue number497
StatePublished - Sep 19 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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