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The effects of lung volume and surface forces on airway smooth muscle shortening were studied in isolated perfused rat lungs. The lungs were inflated via the trachea with gas or Krebs solution (n = 12 each) to volumes equivalent to gas inflation pressures of 5 (low), 15 (medium), and 25 (high) cmH2O (n = 4 each). At each volume, two of the four lungs were perfused with methacholine (10(-2) M) and then all were perfused with Formalin for fixation. The amount of smooth muscle shortening present in transverse sections of the airways was determined by comparing the observed outer perimeter of the smooth muscle layer with its calculated relaxed perimeter. In the control lungs, mean shortening was < or = 10% in all groups except the liquid-filled lungs at low lung volumes [33 +/- 12% (SD)]. In the methacholine-stimulated lungs, mean shortening was between 45 and 56% at medium and low lung volumes in gas- and liquid-filled lungs, respectively, and approximated the degree of shortening required to cause airway closure. At high lung volume, less shortening was observed in the methacholine-stimulated lungs, either liquid (34 +/- 17%) or gas filled (16 +/- 19%; P < 0.05 compared with liquid filled). The effects of lung volume in liquid-filled lungs and the differences in response between gas- and liquid-filled lungs demonstrate, respectively, that both lung tissue recoil and surface forces act to oppose shortening of maximally stimulated smooth muscle.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Original publication




Journal article


J Appl Physiol (1985)

Publication Date





1755 - 1762


Airway Resistance, Animals, Lung, Lung Volume Measurements, Male, Methacholine Chloride, Muscle Contraction, Muscle, Smooth, Paraffin Embedding, Perfusion, Rats, Rats, Wistar