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Cardiac muscle is striated, but its intercalated disks create different, rapid action

potentials that are independent of the nervous system. It is involuntary muscle, unlike the
voluntary skeletal muscle. Action potentials generated within the heart allow contraction
of the entire muscle.

Smooth muscle is unstriated, but still contains thick and thin filaments that slide against
each other. Smooth muscle contracts more slowly than skeletal muscle and the
contraction can be maintained for longer periods. Smooth muscle is found in blood
vessels and the digestive and urinary tracts.

Plasma membranes of neighboring cardiac muscle cells engage at specific points called
the intercalated disks. The gap junctions at these points accommodate for uninterrupted
coupling between the cardiac cells.

Arthropods have nearly similar smooth muscle cells to that of the vertebrates, and
invertebrates have similar smooth muscle cells to that of vertebrates.


cardiac muscle

The striated and involuntary muscle of the vertebrate heart.

smooth muscle

Involuntary muscle which is found within the intestines, throat, uterus, and blood vessel

intercalated disk

When observing cardiac muscle tissue through a microscope, intercalated discs are an
identifying feature of cardiac muscle. Cardiac muscle consists of single heart muscle cells
(cardiomyocytes) that have to be connected by intercalated discs to work as a functional

cardiac output

the volume of blood being pumped by the heart, in particular by a left or right ventricle in
the time interval of one minute

Hormones circulating in the blood can also stimulate smooth muscle contraction. For
instance, the release of the hormone oxytocin can stimulate the uterus to contract to begin
the process of childbirth.

Categories of Skeletal Muscle Fi... Generating Movement: Skeletal In...

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Vertebrates have three types of muscle: skeletal (striated) muscle (just described), cardiac
muscle, and smooth muscle. The types of muscles all function in a similar way, with contraction
relying on the interaction of myosin and actin filaments. Each type, however, has specializations
based on their specific functions within the body.

Cardiac muscle is a type of involuntary striated muscle found in the walls and myocardium of the
heart. The cells that comprise cardiac muscle are mononuclear, like smooth muscle cells. The
myofibrils of each cell are branched. Cardiac muscle resembles skeletal muscle in that it is
striated and each cell contains sarcomeres with sliding filaments of actin and myosin. Cardiac
muscle cells, like all body cells, rely on an ample blood supply to deliver oxygen and nutrients
and to remove waste products such as carbon dioxide. Cardiac muscle has a much richer supply
of mitochondria than skeletal muscle, reflecting its greater dependence on cellular respiration for
ATP. Cardiac muscle has little glycogen and benefits little from glycolysis when the oxygen
supply is limited. Thus anything that interrupts the flow of oxygenated blood to the heart (such as
a blockage causing a heart attack) leads quickly to damageeven deathof the affected part.

A unique characteristic of cardiac muscle is the intercalated disk. Intercalated disks (IDs) are
complex interlocking regions of adjacent muscle cell membranes that connect the cardiac cells to
each other. These adhering structures turn the cardiac cells into an electrochemical syncytium (in
contrast to the skeletal muscle, which shows a multicellular syncytium) and are mainly
responsible for transmission of force during muscle contraction. IDs also support the rapid
spread of action potentials and the synchronized contraction of the myocardium. The branches of
IDs interlock with those of adjacent fibers by strong junctions that enable the heart to contract
forcefully without ripping the fibers apart.

The action potential that triggers the heartbeat is generated within the heart itself. Motor nerves
from the autonomic nervous system do run to the heart, but their effect is to modulate increase
or decrease the intrinsic rate and the strength of the heartbeat. Even if the nerves are
destroyed, the heart continues to beat. The action potential that drives contraction of the heart
passes from fiber to fiber through gap junctions. Thus, all of the fibers contract in a synchronous
wave that sweeps from the atria down through the ventricles and pumps blood out of the heart.
Anything that interferes with this synchronous wave (such as damage to part of the heart muscle
from a heart attack) may cause the fibers of the heart to beat at randoma process called

Smooth muscle is fundamentally different from skeletal muscle and cardiac muscle in terms of
structure, function, regulation of contraction, and excitation-contraction coupling. Smooth
muscle is made of single, spindle-shaped cells. No striations are visible in smooth muscle cells
(hence the name), but as in skeletal and cardiac muscle, each smooth muscle cell contains thick
(myosin) and thin (actin) filaments that slide against each other to produce contraction of the
cell. Tissue containing smooth muscle shows greater elasticity than striated muscle. This ability
to stretch and still maintain contractility is important in organs such as the intestines and urinary
bladder. The contraction of smooth muscle tends to be slower than that of striated muscle and is
often sustained for long periods. This is called tonus, but the mechanism is different from the
mechanism producing tonus in skeletal muscle.

Unlike cardiac and skeletal muscle, smooth muscle lacks the calcium-binding troponin-complex
proteins and the T-tubules. Contraction is initiated by a calcium-regulated phosphorylation of
myosin, rather than a calcium-activated troponin system. Smooth muscle contractions are
initiated by an influx of calcium which binds to the protein calmodulin (calcium-modulated
protein). The calcium-calmodulin complex binds to and activates myosin light-chain kinase.
Myosin light-chain kinase phosphorylates myosin light-chains using ATP, causing them to
interact with actin filaments. Most smooth muscle is of the single-unit variety, that is, either the
whole muscle contracts or the whole muscle relaxes. Single-unit smooth muscle lines blood
vessels (except large elastic arteries), the urinary tract, and the digestive tract. There is also
multiunit smooth muscle, which occurs in the trachea, the large elastic arteries, and the iris of the

Smooth muscle (like cardiac muscle) does not depend on motor neurons to be stimulated.
However, motor neurons of the autonomic system reach smooth muscle and can stimulate or
relax it, depending on the neurotransmitter they release (for example, noradrenaline or nitric
oxide). Smooth muscle can also be made to contract by other substances released in the vicinity
(paracrine stimulation). For example, release of histamine causes contraction of the smooth
muscle lining respiratory passages, triggering an asthma attack.

Skeletal muscles move the body; referred to as ambulation.

There are 4 primary functions of skeletal muscle:

1. Movement
2. Posture or muscle tone
3. Support
4. Heat regulation.