Author(s): GonzlezAlonso J
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Abstract In healthy human beings, blood flow to dynamically contracting skeletal muscle is regulated primarily to match oxygen (O(2)) delivery closely with utilisation. This occurs across a wide range of exercise intensities, as well as when exercise is combined with conditions that modify blood O(2) content. The red blood cells (RBCs), the primary O(2) carriers in the blood, contribute to the regulation of the local processes matching O(2) supply and demand. This is made possible by the ability of RBCs to release the vasoactive substance adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in response to reductions in erythrocyte and plasma O(2), as well as to other adjuvant metabolic and mechanical stimuli. The regulatory role of RBCs in human beings is supported by the observations that, i) exercising skeletal muscle blood flow responds primarily to changes in the amount of O(2) bound to the erythrocyte haemoglobin molecules, rather than the amount of O(2) in plasma, and ii) exercising muscle blood flow can almost double (from 260 to 460 ml min(-1) 100 g(-1)) with alterations in blood O(2) content, such that O(2) delivery and are kept constant. Besides falling blood O(2) content, RBCs release ATP when exposed to increased temperature, reduced pH, hypercapnia, elevated shear stress and augmented mechanical deformation, i.e. conditions that exist in the microcirculation of active skeletal muscle. ATP is an attractive mediator signal for skeletal muscle blood flow regulation, not only because it can act as a potent vasodilator, but also because of its sympatholytic properties in the human limb circulations. These properties are essential to counteract the vasoconstrictor effects of concurrent increases in muscle sympathetic nerve activity and circulating vasoconstrictor substances during exercise. Comparison of the relative vasoactive potencies and sympatholytic properties of ATP, other nucleotides, and adenosine in human limbs, suggests that intravascular ATP exerts its vasodilator and sympatholytic effects directly, and not via its degradation compounds. In conclusion, current evidence clearly indicates that RBCs are involved directly in the regulation of O(2) supply to human skeletal muscle during dynamic exercise. Further, intravascular ATP might be an important mediator in local metabolic sensing and signal transduction between the RBCs and the endothelial and smooth muscle cells in the vascular beds of skeletal muscle.
This article was published in J Physiol
and referenced in Journal of Blood Disorders & Transfusion