Cultured mammalian ciliated cells from the respiratory tract respond to mechanical stimulation of their cell surface by displaying a rapid transient increase in beat frequency. Surrounding adjacent and more distal neighboring ciliated cells display a similar frequency response after a short delay that is proportional to their distance from the stimulated cell. To characterize the progression of this communicated response we developed an automated computer-assisted image-analysis system to examine high-speed films of responding cells. Transmission of the frequency response between cells occurs at 0.63 cells/s at 25 degrees C and 1.54 cells/s at 37 degrees C. We have also confirmed that gap junctions exist between cells in both epithelial explants and outgrowths and that adjacent or nonadjacent ciliated, as well as nonciliated, cells are electrically coupled. We postulate that mechanical stimulation and intercellular communication provide a mechanism to regulate beat frequency between ciliated cells in order to facilitate efficient ciliary function and mucus transport.
- Copyright © 1988 the American Physiological Society