Nitric oxide, VEGF and VEGFR-2: interactions in activity-induced angiogenesis in rat skeletal muscle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle



Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is considered to be important in promotion of capillary growth in skeletal muscles exposed to increased activity. We studied its interactions with nitric oxide (NO) by examining the expression of endothelial NO synthase (NOS), VEGF, and VEGF receptor-2 (VEGFR-2) proteins in relation to capillary growth in rat extensor digitorum longus muscles electrically stimulated for 2, 4, or 7 days with and without NOS inhibition by N(omega)-nitro-L-arginine (L-NNA, 3 mg/day). Stimulation increased all proteins from 2 days onward, concomitantly with capillary proliferation (labeling for proliferating cell nuclear antigen). Capillary-to-fiber ratio was elevated by 25% after 7 days. Concurrent oral administration of L-NNA did not affect the increase in endothelial NOS but depressed its activity, as shown by increased blood pressure and decreased arteriolar diameters in 2-day-stimulated muscles. NOS inhibition eliminated the increased expression of VEGFR-2 and VEGF proteins in muscles stimulated for 2 and 4 days but not for 7 days. However, it depressed capillary proliferation and the increase in C/F at all time points. We conclude that, in stimulated muscles, NO, generated by activation of neuronal NOS by muscle activity or endothelial NOS by increased blood flow and capillary shear stress, may increase capillary proliferation in the early stages of stimulation through upregulation of VEGFR-2 and VEGF. With longer stimulation, capillary growth appears to require NO, and high levels of VEGF and VEGFR-2 may be contributing to maintenance of the increased capillary bed.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)H336-H343
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2005


  • chronic muscle stimulation, vascular endothelial growth factor, capillary proliferation, nitric oxide synthase inhibition