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Journal of Visualized Experiments








Transgenic and knockout mice have been powerful tools for the investigation of the physiology and pathophysiology of airways(1,2). In vitro tensometry of isolated tracheal preparations has proven to be a useful assay of airway smooth muscle (ASM) contractile response in genetically modified mice. These in vitro tracheal preparations are relatively simple, provide a robust response, and retain both functional cholinergic nerve endings and muscle responses, even after long incubations. Tracheal tensometry also provides a functional assay to study a variety of second messenger signaling pathways that affect contraction of smooth muscle. Contraction in trachea is primarily mediated by parasympathetic, cholinergic nerves that release acetylcholine onto ASM (Figure 1). The major ASM acetylcholine receptors are muscarinic M2 and M3 which are G(i/o ;)and Gq coupled receptors, respectively(3,4,5). M3 receptors evoke contraction by coupling to Gq to activate phospholipase C, increase IP3 production and IP3-mediated calcium release from the sarcoplasmic reticulum(3,6,7). M2/G(i/o ;)signaling is believed to enhance contractions by inhibition of adenylate cyclase leading to a decrease in cAMP levels(5,8,9,10). These pathways constitute the so called "pharmaco-contraction coupling" of airway smooth muscle(11). In addition, cholinergic signaling through M2 receptors (and modulated by M3 signaling) involves pathways that depolarize the ASM which in turn activate L-type, voltage-dependent calcium channels (Figure 1) and calcium influx (so called "excitation-contraction coupling")(4,7). More detailed reviews on signaling pathways controlling airway constriction can be found(4,12). The above pathways appear to be conserved between mice and other species. However, mouse tracheas differ from other species in some signaling pathways. Most prominent is their lack of contractile response to histamine and adenosine(13,14), both well-known ASM modulators in humans and other species(5,15). Here we present protocols for the isolation of murine tracheal rings and the in vitro measurement of their contractile output. Included are descriptions of the equipment configuration, trachea ring isolation and contractile measurements. Examples are given for evoking contractions indirectly using high potassium stimulation of nerves and directly by depolarization of ASM muscle to activate voltage-dependent calcium influx (1. high K(+), Figure 1). In addition, methods are presented for stimulations of nerves alone using electric field stimulation (2. EFS, Figure 1), or for direct stimulation of ASM muscle using exogenous neurotransmitter applied to the bath (3. exogenous ACH, Figure 1). This flexibility and ease of preparation renders the isolated trachea ring model a robust and functional assay for a number of signaling cascades involved in airway smooth muscle contraction.


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Original Publication Citation

Semenov, I., Herlihy, J.T., & Brenner, R. (2012). In vitro measurements of tracheal constriction using mice. Journal of Visualized Experiments, 64, e3703. doi: 10.3791/3703

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