Smooth Muscle Cells

Smooth muscle is separated from the epithelium by the lamina propria, a region of connective tissue containing nerves and blood vessels. In the trachea, the smooth muscle connects the open ends of the incomplete cartilage rings and therefore constitutes only a fraction of the circumference of this component of the airways. Further down the pulmonary tree, through the bronchi and bronchioles, the contribution of the smooth muscle to the airway wall increases to the point of completely encircling the airway. Contraction or relaxation of the smooth muscle has a direct influence on airway caliber and thereby affects airflow in the airways. Bronchoconstriction is the result of smooth muscle contraction and is the principal cause of airway obstruction in reversible obstructive airway diseases, such as asthma. The tone or state of contraction of airway smooth muscle is subject to control by neurotransmitters released from innervating nerves, hormones, or mediators released from activated inflammatory cells.

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