Unorthodox angiogenesis in skeletal muscle

Stuart Egginton, Ai-Ling Zhou, Margaret Brown, Olga Hudlicka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

159 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE: The morphological pattern of angiogenesis occurring in mature, differentiated skeletal muscle in response to chronically increased muscle blood flow, muscle stretch or repetitious muscle contractions was examined to determine (a) whether capillary neoformation follows the generally accepted temporal paradigm, and (b) how the growth pattern is influenced by mechanical stimuli. METHODS: Adult rats were treated for a maximum of 14 days either with the vasodilator prazosin, to elevate skeletal muscle blood flow, or underwent surgical removal of one ankle flexor, to induce compensatory overload in the remaining muscles, or had muscles chronically stimulated by implanted electrodes. Extensor digitorum longus and/or extensor hallucis proprius muscles were removed at intervals and processed for electron microscopy. A systematic examination of capillaries and their ultrastructure characterised the sequence of morphological changes indicative of angiogenesis, i.e., basement membrane disruption, endothelial cell (EC) sprouting and proliferation [immunogold labelling after bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) incorporation]. RESULTS: Capillary growth in response to increased blood flow occurred by luminal division without sprouting or basement membrane (BM) breakage. In stretched muscles, EC proliferation and abluminal sprouting gave rise to new capillaries, with BM loss only at sprout tips. These distinct mechanisms appear to be additive as in chronically stimulated muscles (increased blood flow with repetitive stretch and shortening during muscle contractions) both forms of capillary growth occurred. Endothelial cell numbers per capillary profile, mitotic EC nuclei, and BrdU labelling confirmed cell proliferation prior to overt angiogenesis. CONCLUSIONS: Physiological angiogenesis within adult skeletal muscle progresses by mechanisms that do not readily conform to the consensus view of capillary growth, derived mainly from observations made during development, pathological vessel growth, or from in vitro systems. The temporal and spatial pattern of growth is determined by the polarity of the mechanical stimulus, i.e., by intra-luminal (increased shear stress) or abluminal (external stretch) stimuli.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)634-646
Number of pages13
JournalCardiovascular Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 16 Feb 2001


  • extracellular matrix
  • capillaries
  • angiotensin
  • blood flow
  • remodeling
  • electron microscopy


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