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J Physiol. 2012 Dec 15;590(24):6297-305. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2012.240762. Epub 2012 Sep 17.

Vasodilator interactions in skeletal muscle blood flow regulation.

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Department of Exercise and Sport Sciences, Division of Integrated Cardiovascular Physiology, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.


During exercise, oxygen delivery to skeletal muscle is elevated to meet the increased oxygen demand. The increase in blood flow to skeletal muscle is achieved by vasodilators formed locally in the muscle tissue, either on the intraluminal or on the extraluminal side of the blood vessels. A number of vasodilators have been shown to bring about this increase in blood flow and, importantly, interactions between these compounds seem to be essential for the precise regulation of blood flow. Two compounds stand out as central in these vasodilator interactions: nitric oxide (NO) and prostacyclin. These two vasodilators are both stimulated by several compounds, e.g. adenosine, ATP, acetylcholine and bradykinin, and are affected by mechanically induced signals, such as shear stress. NO and prostacyclin have also been shown to interact in a redundant manner where one system can take over when formation of the other is compromised. Although numerous studies have examined the role of single and multiple pharmacological inhibition of different vasodilator systems, and important vasodilators and interactions have been identified, a large part of the exercise hyperaemic response remains unexplained. It is plausible that this remaining hyperaemia may be explained by cAMP- and cGMP-independent smooth muscle relaxation, such as effects of endothelial derived hyperpolarization factors (EDHFs) or through metabolic modulation of sympathetic effects. The nature and role of EDHF as well as potential novel mechanisms in muscle blood flow regulation remain to be further explored to fully elucidate the regulation of exercise hyperaemia.

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