Altered electrical activity in colonic smooth muscle cells from dystrophic (mdx) mice


R. Serio Dipartimento di Biologia cellulare e dello Sviluppo, Laboratorio di Fisiologia generale, Università di Palermo, Viale delle Scienze, 90128 Palermo, Italy Tel.: 39 091 6577509; fax: 39 091 6577501 e-mail:


Because the colon from dystrophic (mdx) mice shows an altered motor pattern, probably due to neural disorders, our aim was to examine the electrophysiological properties of muscle cells and the functionality of nitrergic transmission in circular muscle from normal and mdx colon. Normal colonic cells (resting membrane potential [RMP] about −50 mV) showed spontaneous hyperpolarizations (inhibitory junction potentials; IJPs) and cyclic slow depolarizations were sometimes recorded. Mdx colon had a depolarized RMP (about –36 mV) and spontaneous IJPs, but the cyclic activity was never observed. In the normal colon, Nω-nitro- L-arginine methyl ester ( L-NAME) induced depolarization and abolished the cyclic activity. In the mdx colon, L-NAME caused a slight depolarization. Both preparations displayed the same value of RMP in the presence of L-NAME. In normals, neural stimulation induced nonadrenergic, noncholinergic IJPs composed of fast hyperpolarizations followed by a nitrergic slow hyperpolarization, selectively abolished by L-NAME. In the mdx colon the evoked IJPs were composed only of the initial fast hyperpolarization, the nitrergic component being absent. The hyperpolarization to sodium nitroprusside was not significantly different in both preparations. We conclude that the colon from animals lacking in dystrophin displays different electrophysiological features because of an impairment of nitric oxide function.