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J Physiol. 2012 Oct 15;590(20):4985-91. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2012.233106. Epub 2012 May 14.

Regulation of blood flow distribution in skeletal muscle: role of erythrocyte-released ATP.

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Department of Pharmacological and Physiological Science, Saint Louis University School of Medicine, 1402 South Grand Boulevard, St Louis, MO 63104, USA.


The maintenance of adequate tissue O(2) levels in skeletal muscle is vital for normal physiology and requires a well regulated and appropriately distributed convective O(2) supply. Inherent in this fundamental physiological process is the requirement for a mechanism which both senses tissue O(2) need and locally adjusts flow to appropriately meet that need. Over the past several years we and others have suggested that, in skeletal muscle, O(2) carrying erythrocytes participate in the regulation of total blood flow and its distribution by releasing ATP. Importantly, the release of this vasoactive molecule must be both rapid and well controlled if it is to serve an important physiological role. Here we provide insights into three distinct regulated signalling pathways within the erythrocyte that are activated by exposure to reduced O(2) tension or in response to binding of agonists to the prostacyclin or β-adrenergic receptors. Although much has been learned about the role of the erythrocyte in perfusion of skeletal muscle, much remains to be understood. However, what is clear is that the long established passive carrier of O(2) also contributes to the regulation of the distribution of microvascular perfusion in skeletal muscle by virtue of its capacity to release ATP.

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