Muscle Contraction by Nueronal Signals

Alessandra Petrillo How Neuronal Signaling Leads to Muscle Contractions

Contracting muscle cells relies on Ca2+ concentration. Therefore, in order to stimulate a muscle contraction, an action potential must be triggered to release Ca2+. An action potential gets sent down the axon of a motor neuron. After arriving at a skeletal muscle fiber, the signal arrives at the plasma membrane, which is then sent to the sarcoplasmic reticulum, where calcium can be found. Activation of ion channels occurs from the change in voltage gated Ca2+ channels. Once these Ca2+ channels are active, the sarcoplasmic reticulum releases Ca2+ down its concentration gradient through ion channels and into the cytosol. When Ca2+ increases in the cytosol it binds to a protein complex called troponin causing a tropomyosin to undergo a conformational change and expose a binding site for myosin. Myosin head hydrolyzes ATP causing a conformational change that moves along actin filament. This repetitive attaching and detaching occurs as long as Ca2+ is present and causes it to pull actin. Myosin will pull on actin causing sacromeres to contract. The increase in Ca2+ will eventually cause the nerve signal to stop and the Ca2+ to return to the sarcoplasmic reticulum from Ca2+ pumps.

Mutations in certain types of myosin, such as cardiac myosin sarcomeres in the heart can cause a disease called familial hypertrophic cardiomyophathy. Mutation in these genes can be genetic and lead to sudden death in athletes.

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