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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2004 Sep;97(3):1152-8. Epub 2004 May 28.

Connexin expression and conducted vasodilation along arteriolar endothelium in mouse skeletal muscle.

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  • 1The John B. Pierce Laboratory, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut 06519, USA.


Functional hyperemia requires the coordination of smooth muscle cell relaxation along and between branches of the arteriolar network. Vasodilation is conducted from cell to cell along the arteriolar wall through gap junction channels composed of connexin protein subunits. Within skeletal muscle, it is unclear whether arteriolar endothelium, smooth muscle, or both cell layers provide the cellular pathway for conduction. Furthermore, the constitutive profile of connexin expression within the microcirculation is unknown. We tested the hypothesis that conducted vasodilation and connexin expression are intrinsic to the endothelium of arterioles (17 +/- 1 microm diameter) that supply the skeletal muscle fibers in the cremaster of anesthetized C57BL/6 mice. ACh delivered to an arteriole (500 ms, 1-microA pulse; 1-microm micropipette) produced local dilation of 17 +/- 1 microm; conducted vasodilation observed 1 mm upstream was 9 +/- 1 microm (n = 5). After light-dye treatment to selectively disrupt endothelium (250-microm segment centered 500 microm upstream, confirmed by loss of local response to ACh while constriction to phenylephrine and dilation to sodium nitroprusside remained intact), we found that conducted vasodilation was nearly abolished (2 +/- 1 microm; P < 0.05). Whole-mount immunohistochemistry for connexins revealed punctate labeling at borders of arteriolar endothelial cells, with connexin40 and connexin37 in all branches and connexin43 only in the largest branches. Immunoreactivity for connexins was not apparent in smooth muscle or in capillary or venular endothelium, despite robust immunolabeling for alpha-actin and platelet endothelial cell adhesion molecule-1, respectively. We conclude that vasodilation is conducted along the endothelium of mouse skeletal muscle arterioles and that connexin40 and connexin37 are the primary connexins forming gap junction channels between arteriolar endothelial cells.

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