Airway smooth muscle photorelaxation via opsin receptor activation

Peter D. Yim, George Gallos, Jose F. Perez-Zoghbi, Yi Zhang, Dingbang Xu, Amy Wu, Dan E. Berkowitz, Charles W. Emala

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Nonvisual opsin (OPN) receptors have recently been implicated in blue light-mediated photorelaxation of smooth muscle in various organs. Since photorelaxation has not yet been demonstrated in airway smooth muscle (ASM) or in human tissues, we questioned whether functional OPN receptors are expressed in mouse and human ASM. mRNA, encoding the OPN 3 receptor, was detected in both human and mouse ASM. To demonstrate the functionality of the OPN receptors, we performed wire myography of ex vivo ASM from mouse and human upper airways. Blue light-mediated relaxation of ACh-preconstricted airways was intensity and wavelength dependent (maximum relaxation at 430-nm blue light) and was inhibited by blockade of the large-conductance calcium-activated potassium channels with iberiotoxin. We further implicated OPN receptors as key mediators in functional photorelaxation by demonstrating increased relaxation in the presence of a G protein receptor kinase 2 inhibitor or an OPN chromophore (9-cis retinal). We corroborated these responses in peripheral airways of murine precision-cut lung slices. This is the first demonstration of photorelaxation in ASM via an OPN receptor-mediated pathway.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L82-L93
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Airway smooth muscle
  • Blue light
  • G protein receptor kinase 2
  • Opsin
  • Relaxation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology


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