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J Physiol. 1984 Aug;353:435-45.

The effect of long-term high-frequency stimulation on capillary density and fibre types in rabbit fast muscles.


Rabbit fast muscles (tibialis anterior, t.a.; extensor digitorum longus, e.d.l.; and peroneal muscles) were stimulated for up to 28 days by electrodes implanted in the vicinity of the lateral popliteal (peroneal) nerve for 8 h/day, using either intermittent high-frequency (three trains at 40 Hz/min, each 5 s duration), or continuous stimulation at 10 Hz. This did not result in muscle hypertrophy even after 28 days. Capillary density (number of capillaries/mm2) was increased in e.d.l. from 251 +/- 3 to 366 +/- 6 after 14 days of stimulation and from 251 +/- 3 to 514 +/- 13 after 28 days of stimulation at 40 Hz. In t.a., capillary density increased from 373 +/- 5 to 583 +/- 10 after 14 days of stimulation at 40 Hz. The capillary/fibre ratio increased in e.d.l. from 1.25 +/- 0.02 to 1.86 +/- 0.04 at 14 days and to 2.07 +/- 0.06 at 28 days. In t.a., capillary/fibre ratio increased from 1.40 +/- 0.03 to 1.83 +/- 0.05 at 14 days. All these changes were significant (P less than 0.0005). Analysis of capillary density, capillary/fibre ratio, fibre areas and proportion of different fibre types in muscles stimulated for shorter periods showed no changes in capillary density, capillary/fibre ratio or fibre areas in e.d.l. or t.a. stimulated for 4 days; there was a decrease in the proportion of fast glycolytic fibres from 42 to 32% (P less than 0.0025) and increase in fast oxidative from 37.6 to 41.2% in e.d.l. Muscles stimulated for 7 days showed increases in capillary density and capillary/fibre ratio in fast predominantly glycolytic fibres in e.d.l., and a decrease in capillary density in fast and slow oxidative fibres in t.a. This was partly due to the increase in fibre areas in these groups (capillary/fibre ratio in t.a. was not significantly changed). No changes were observed in fibre areas in e.d.l. Stimulation at 10 Hz produced increase in capillary/fibre ratio in the vicinity of glycolytic fibres after only 4 days. High-frequency intermittent stimulation leads to a massive capillary growth which starts first in the muscle with a higher proportion of glycolytic fibres (e.d.l.), has a later onset than continuous low-frequency stimulation, and may be due to a combination of high blood flow and metabolic factors.

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