REVIEW Nifedipine decreases arterial smooth muscle contractility and subsequent vasoconstriction by inhibiting the influx of calcium ions through L-type calcium channels. Calcium ions entering the cell through these channels bind to calmodulin. Calcium-bound calmodulin then binds to and activates myosin light chain kinase (MLCK). Activated MLCK catalyzes the phosphorylation of the regulatory light chain subunit of myosin, a key step in muscle contraction. Signal amplification is achieved by calcium-induced calcium release from the sarcoplasmic reticulum through ryanodine receptors. Inhibition of the initial influx of calcium inhibits the contractile processes of smooth muscle cells, causing dilation of the coronary and systemic arteries, increased oxygen delivery to the myocardial tissue, decreased total peripheral resistance, decreased systemic blood pressure, and decreased afterload. The vasodilatory effects of nifedipine result in an overall decrease in blood pressure.
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