The effect of chronic skeletal muscle stimulation on capillary growth in the rat: are sensory nerve fibres involved?

Olga Hudlicka, L Graciotti, G Fulgenzi, Margaret Brown, Stuart Egginton, Malgorzata Milkiewicz, A-L Granata

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17 Citations (Scopus)


Indirect chronic electrical stimulation of skeletal muscle activates not only efferent but also afferent nerve fibres. To investigate effects specific to this on capillary growth, one of the earliest changes, cell proliferation and capillary ultrastructure were studied in ankle flexors of rats with and without deafferentation of the stimulated side. Two weeks after preganglionic section of dorsal roots L4-L6, the peroneal nerve was stimulated (10 Hz, 8 h day(-1)) for 2 or 7 days. Proliferating nuclei labelled by bromodeoxyuridine or proliferating cell nuclear antigen staining were colocalized to alkaline phosphatase-stained capillaries (Lc) or other interstitial nuclei (Li) in frozen sections of extensor digitorum. longus. Capillary fine structure was examined in extensor hallucis proprius by transmission electron microscopy. The stimulation-induced increase in capillary and interstitial proliferation (Lc 9.9 +/- 1.9 %, Li 8.8 +/- 2.1 % vs. Lc 2.6 +/- 0.4 %, Li 1.9 +/- 0.3 % in controls, P <0.05) was depressed at 2 days by dorsal root section (Lc 4.8 +/- 0.7%, Li 3.2 +/- 0.9 %, P <0.05), an effect likely to be mainly on fibroblasts; no depression was seen at 7 days. Dorsal root section reduced stimulation-induced capillary endothelial swelling at both time points. In contralateral muscles of intact rats, stimulation increased interstitial cell proliferation and capillary swelling, both effects being eliminated by dorsal root section. Capillary growth induced by stimulation (24 % increase in capillary: fibre ratio at 7 days) was unaffected by deafferentation. The reduction in capillary ultrastructural changes and interstitial proliferation in both stimulated and contralateral muscles implies that stimulation of afferent fibres leads directly to release of Immoral factors and/or activation via dorsal roots of fibres that release Immoral substances. Contralateral muscles are an inadequate control for the effects of chronic stimulation in the intact animal.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)813-822
Number of pages10
JournalThe Journal of Physiology
Issue number3
Early online date13 Dec 2002
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2003


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