Extracellular electrical and contractile activities were recorded in vitro from strips of human colonic smooth muscle obtained at the time of surgery. Serosal electrical activity of longitudinally oriented strips from the taenia and intertaenial region was characterised by continuous oscillation at a frequency of 28 +/- 1/min. Contractions were marked electrically by a series of oscillations upon which spikes were superimposed. The electrical activity recorded from the submucosal surface of circularly oriented strips exhibited oscillations at 24 +/- 4/min, a frequency significantly lower (p less than 0.001) than that recorded from the serosal surface of similar preparations. The contractile force and frequency was dependent upon the part of the colon from which the strip originated; the most powerful contractions were recorded from strips of sigmoid colon. The contractile frequency of circularly oriented strips from the right colon was 6.3 +/- 0.6/min, significantly higher (p less than 0.001) than that of strips from the left colon (3.4 +/- 0.3/min). Stretching these strips caused an increase in contractile frequency to that of the electrical oscillation.
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