Length adaptation of smooth muscle contractile filaments in response to sustained activation

Jonas Stålhand, Gerhard Holzapfel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Airway and bladder smooth muscles are known to undergo length adaptation under sustained contraction. This adaptation process entails a remodelling of the intracellular actin and myosin filaments which shifts the peak of the active force-length curve towards the current length. Smooth muscles are therefore able to generate the maximum force over a wide range of lengths. In contrast, length adaptation of vascular smooth muscle has attracted very little attention and only a handful of studies have been reported. Although their results are conflicting on the existence of a length adaptation process in vascular smooth muscle, it seems that, at least, peripheral arteries and arterioles undergo such adaptation. This is of interest since peripheral vessels are responsible for pressure regulation, and a length adaptation will affect the function of the cardiovascular system. It has, e.g., been suggested that the inward remodelling of resistance vessels associated with hypertension disorders may be related to smooth muscle adaptation. In this study we develop a continuum mechanical model for vascular smooth muscle length adaptation by assuming that the muscle cells remodel the actomyosin network such that the peak of the active stress-stretch curve is shifted towards the operating point. The model is specialised to hamster cheek pouch arterioles and the simulated response to stepwise length changes under contraction. The results show that the model is able to recover the salient features of length adaptation reported in the literature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-21
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Publication statusPublished - 21 May 2016


  • Actin Cytoskeleton
  • Actomyosin
  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Models, Biological
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular
  • Thermodynamics
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

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