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Focal application of vasodilators such as acetylcholine (ACh), which evoke arterial hyperpolarization, cause coordinated dilatation along the length of an artery with minimal decay with distance from the site of application. This phenomenon is called spreading vasodilatation. In an artery wall, the endothelium is separated from the surrounding smooth muscle cell layers by an internal elastic lamina (IEL). Adjacent endothelial cells are strongly connected via gap junctions, which can allow direct communication between the cells, including the passage of small molecules and electrical current. Direct communication between an endothelial cell and a smooth muscle cell, through a hole in the IEL, has recently been observed in arteries. Spreading vasodilatation is associated with a spread of hyperpolarization which may be a key mechanism responsible for this spreading arterial vasodilatation. Endothelial cells appear to play an important role in such spread, even though the facilitating mechanisms underlying this spread are as yet unclear. These spreading responses are likely to have an important physiological role in the coordination of blood flow within a vascular network.


Journal article


J Smooth Muscle Res

Publication Date





303 - 311


Animals, Arteries, Muscle, Smooth, Vascular, Vascular Resistance, Vasodilation