Figure 62-2 shows a typical cross section of the intestinal wall, including the following layers from outer surface inward: (1) the serosa, (2) a longitudinal muscle layer, (3) a circular muscle layer, (4) the submucosa, and (5) the mucosa. In addition, sparse bundles of smooth muscle fibers, the mucosal muscle, lie in the deeper layers of the mucosa. The motor functions of the gut are performed by the different layers of smooth muscle.
The general characteristics of smooth muscle and its function are discussed in Chapter 8, which should be reviewed as a background for the following sections of this chapter. The specific characteristics of smooth muscle in the gut are the following.
Gastrointestinal Smooth Muscle Functions as a Syncytium. The individual smooth muscle fibers in the gastrointestinal tract are 200 to 500 micrometers in length and 2 to 10 micrometers in diameter, and they are arranged in bundles of as many as 1000 parallel fibers. In the longitudinal muscle layer, the bundles extend longitudinally down the intestinal tract; in the circular muscle layer, they extend around the gut.
Within each bundle, the muscle fibers are electrically connected with one another through large numbers of gap junctions that allow low-resistance movement of ions from one muscle cell to the next. Therefore, electrical signals that initiate muscle contractions can travel readily from one fiber to the next within each bundle but more rapidly along the length of the bundle than sideways.
Each bundle of smooth muscle fibers is partly separated from the next by loose connective tissue, but the muscle bundles fuse with one another at many
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This ebook provides an introductory explanation of the workings of the human body, with an effort to draw connections between the body systems and explain their interdependencies. A framework for the book is homeostasis and how the body maintains balance within each system. This is intended as a first introduction to physiology for a college-level course.