Experimental Physiology

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Increased cardiac output contributes to the development of chronic intermittent hypoxia-induced hypertension

01 October 2014

Chronic intermittent hypoxia (CIH) in animal models has been shown to result in hypertension and elevation of sympathetic nervous system activity. Sympathetically mediated vasoconstriction is believed to be the primary mechanism underpinning CIH-induced hypertension; however, the potential contribution of the heart is largely overlooked. We sought to determine the contribution of cardiac output (CO) and lumbar sympathetic control of the hindlimb circulation to CIH-induced hypertension. Male Wistar rats (n = 64) were exposed to 2 weeks of CIH [cycles of 90 s hypoxia (5% O2 nadir) and 210 s normoxia] or normoxia for 8 h day–1. Under urethane anaesthesia, CIH-treated animals developed hypertension (81.4 ± 2.2 versus 91.6 ± 2.4 mmHg; P < 0.001), tachycardia (397 ± 8 versus 445 ± 7 beats min–1; P < 0.001) and an increased haematocrit (42.4 ± 0.4 versus 45.0 ± 0.4%; P < 0.001). Echocardiography revealed that CIH exposure increased the CO [19.3 ± 1.7 versus 25.8 ± 2.6 ml min–1 (100 g)–1; P = 0.027] with no change in total peripheral resistance (4.93 ± 0.49 versus 4.17 ± 0.34 mmHg ml–1 min–1; P = 0.123). Sympathetic ganglionic blockade revealed that sympathetic control over blood pressure was not different (–27.7 ± 1.6 versus –32.3 ± 2.9 mmHg; P = 0.095), and no chronic vasoconstriction was found in the hindlimb circulation of CIH-treated animals (39.4 ± 2.5 versus 38.0 ± 2.4 μl min–1 mmHg–1; P = 0.336). Lumbar sympathetic control over the hindlimb circulation was unchanged in CIH-treated animals (P = 0.761), although hindlimb arterial sympathetic density was increased (P = 0.012) and vascular sensitivity to phenylephrine was blunted (P = 0.049). We conclude that increased CO is sufficient to explain the development of CIH-induced hypertension, which may be an early adaptive response to raise O2 flow. We propose that sustained elevated cardiac work may ultimately lead to heart failure.

Vasopressin regulation of epithelial colonic proliferation and permeability is mediated by pericryptal platelet-derived growth factor A

01 October 2014

Arginine vasopressin (AVP) has trophic effects on the rat distal colon, increasing the growth of pericryptal myofibroblasts and reducing the colonic crypt wall permeability. This study aimed to reproduce in vitro the effects of AVP observed in vivo using cultures of human CCD-18Co myofibroblasts and T84 colonic epithelial cells. Proliferation of myofibroblasts was quantified by bromodeoxyuridine incorporation; the expression of platelet-derived growth factor A (PDGFA), platelet-derived growth factor B, epidermal growth factor, transforming growth factor-β and vascular endothelial growth factor was measured by PCR and the expression of epithelial junction proteins by Western blot. Arginine vasopressin stimulated myofibroblast proliferation and the expression of PDGFA without affecting the expression of platelet-derived growth factor B, epidermal growth factor, transforming growth factor-β or vascular endothelial growth factor. These effects were prevented when AVP receptor inhibitors were present in the medium. Pre-incubation of CCD-18Co cells with anti-PDGF antibody or with an inhibitor of the PDGF receptor abolished the effects of AVP. When colonocytes were incubated with medium obtained from myofibroblasts incubated with AVP, both cell proliferation and the expression of epithelial junction proteins increased; however, direct incubation of colonocytes with AVP did not modify these variables. These results demonstrate that AVP stimulates myofibroblast proliferation and induces PDGFA secretion, implying that PDGFA mediates local myofibroblast proliferation by an autocrine feedback loop and regulates epithelial proliferation and permeability by a paracrine mechanism.

Characterization of butyrate transport across the luminal membranes of equine large intestine

01 October 2014

The diet of the horse, pasture forage (grass), is fermented by the equine colonic microbiota to short-chain fatty acids, notably acetate, propionate and butyrate. Short-chain fatty acids provide a major source of energy for the horse and contribute to many vital physiological processes. We aimed to determine both the mechanism of butyrate uptake across the luminal membrane of equine colon and the nature of the protein involved. To this end, we isolated equine colonic luminal membrane vesicles. The abundance and activity of cysteine-sensitive alkaline phosphatase and villin, intestinal luminal membrane markers, were significantly enriched in membrane vesicles compared with the original homogenates. In contrast, the abundance of GLUT2 protein and the activity of Na+–K+-ATPase, known markers of the intestinal basolateral membrane, were hardly detectable. We demonstrated, by immunohistochemistry, that monocarboxylate transporter 1 (MCT1) protein is expressed on the luminal membrane of equine colonocytes. We showed that butyrate transport into luminal membrane vesicles is energized by a pH gradient (out < in) and is not Na+ dependent. Moreover, butyrate uptake is time and concentration dependent, with a Michaelis–Menten constant of 5.6 ± 0.45 mm and maximal velocity of 614 ± 55 pmol s–1 (mg protein)–1. Butyrate transport is significantly inhibited by p-chloromercuribenzoate, phloretin and α-cyano-4-hydroxycinnamic acid, all potent inhibitors of MCT1. Moreover, acetate and propionate, as well as the monocarboxylates pyruvate and lactate, also inhibit butyrate uptake. Data presented here support the conclusion that transport of butyrate across the equine colonic luminal membrane is predominantly accomplished by MCT1.

Endoplasmic reticulum stress-mediated autophagy protects against lipopolysaccharide-induced apoptosis in HL-1 cardiomyocytes

01 October 2014

Apoptosis of cardiomyocytes limits the contractile efficiency of the heart during sepsis. Prosurvival autophagy has been proposed as a novel mechanism to maintain normal heart function. Here, we demonstrated that autophagy was activated in lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-treated HL-1 cells, and it counteracted the LPS-induced apoptosis. We investigated further the mechanism by which LPS triggered autophagy in HL-1 cells. We discovered that endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress played an important role in LPS-triggered autophagy. The ER activated a survival pathway through the ER-localized transmembrane protein PERK, which was essential for LPS-induced autophagy. Lipopolysaccharide increased expression of GRP78, phosphorylated PERK and phosphorylated eukaryotic initiation factor 2α. Similar results were observed after administration of tunicamycin, a well-known ER stressor. Most importantly, we found that 4-phenylbutyrate, an inhibitor of ER stress, suppressed LPS-activated autophagy in the presence of LPS in HL-1 cells. The same results were observed after small interfering RNA-mediated silencing of PERK protein. We also noticed that LPS-induced apoptosis appeared early, at 4 h. Our findings revealed that PERK, one arm of ER stress, facilitated survival of LPS-treated HL-1 cells by promoting autophagy, and could serve as a potential therapeutic strategy to alleviate septic myocardial dysfunction.

Mechanomyogram amplitude correlates with human gastrocnemius medialis muscle and tendon stiffness both before and after acute passive stretching

01 October 2014

The study aimed to assess the level of correlation between muscle–tendon unit (MTU) stiffness and mechanomyogram (MMG) signal amplitude of the human gastrocnemius medialis muscle, both before and after acute passive stretching. The passive torque (Tpass), electrically evoked peak torque (pT) and myotendinous junction displacement were determined at different angles of dorsiflexion (0, 10 and 20 deg), while maximum voluntary isometric torque (Tmax) was assessed only at 0 deg. Measurements were repeated after a bout of passive stretching. From the MMG signal, the root mean square (RMS) and peak to peak (p-p) were calculated. The MTU, muscle and tendon stiffness were determined by ultrasound and Tpass measurements. Before stretching, correlations between MMG RMS and MTU, muscle and tendon stiffness were found (R2 = 0.22–0.46). After stretching, Tpass, Tmax, pT and MTU, muscle and tendon stiffness decreased by 25 ± 7, 16 ± 2, 9 ± 2, 22 ± 7, 23 ± 8 and 28 ± 5%, respectively (P < 0.05). During voluntary and electrically evoked contractions, MMG p-p decreased by 9 ± 2 and 5 ± 1%, while MMG RMS increased by 48 ± 7 and 50 ± 8%, respectively (P < 0.05). Correlations between MMG RMS and MTU, muscle and tendon stiffness were still present after stretching (R2 = 0.44–0.60). In conclusion, correlations between MMG RMS and stiffness exist both before and after stretching, suggesting that a slacker MTU leads to larger muscle fibre oscillations. However, care must be taken in using MMG amplitude as an indirect index to estimate stiffness owing to the relatively small R2 values of the investigated correlations.

Amitriptyline is efficacious in ameliorating muscle inflammation and depressive symptoms in the mdx mouse model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy

01 October 2014

Mutations in the structural protein dystrophin underlie muscular dystrophies characterized by progressive deterioration of muscle function. Dystrophin-deficient mdx mice are considered a model for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Individuals with DMD are also susceptible to mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety. Therefore, the study objectives were to investigate the effects of the tricyclic antidepressant amitriptyline on mood, learning, central cytokine expression and skeletal muscle inflammation in mdx mice. Amitriptyline-induced effects (10 mg kg–1 daily s.c. injections, 25 days) on the behaviour of mdx mice were investigated using the open field arena and tail suspension tests. The effects of chronic amitriptyline treatment on inflammatory markers were studied in the muscle and plasma of mdx mice, and mood-associated monoamine and cytokine concentrations were measured in the amygdala, hippocampus, prefrontal cortex, striatum, hypothalamus and midbrain. The mdx mice exhibited increased levels of anxiety and depressive-like behaviour compared with wild-type mice. Amitriptyline treatment had anxiolytic and antidepressant effects in mdx mice associated with elevations in serotonin levels in the amygdala and hippocampus. Inflammation in mdx skeletal muscle tissue was also reduced following amitriptyline treatment as indicated by decreased immune cell infiltration of muscle and lower levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokines tumour necrosis factor-α and interleukin-6 in the forelimb flexors. Interleukin-6 mRNA expression was remarkably reduced in the amygdala of mdx mice by chronic amitriptyline treatment. Positive effects of amitriptyline on mood, in addition to its anti-inflammatory effects in skeletal muscle, may make it an attractive therapeutic option for individuals with DMD.

Discharge characteristics of motor units during long-duration contractions

01 October 2014

The purpose of the study was to determine how long humans could sustain the discharge of single motor units during a voluntary contraction. The discharge of motor units in first dorsal interosseus of subjects (27.8 ± 8.1 years old) was recorded for as long as possible. The task was terminated when the isolated motor unit stopped discharging action potentials, despite the ability of the individual to sustain the abduction force. Twenty-three single motor units were recorded. Task duration was 21.4 ± 17.8 min. When analysed across discharge duration, mean discharge rate (10.6 ± 1.8 pulses s–1) and mean abduction force (5.5 ± 2.8% maximum) did not change significantly (discharge rate, P = 0.119; and abduction force, P = 0.235). In contrast, the coefficient of variation for interspike interval during the initial 30 s of the task was 22.2 ± 6.0% and increased to 31.9 ± 7.0% during the final 30 s (P < 0.001). All motor units were recruited again after 60 s of rest. Although subjects were able to sustain a relatively constant discharge rate, the cessation of discharge was preceded by a gradual increase in discharge variability. The findings also showed that the maximal duration of human motor unit discharge exceeds that previously reported for the discharge elicited in motor neurons by intracellular current injection in vitro.

Infusion of ATP increases leg oxygen delivery but not oxygen uptake in the initial phase of intense knee-extensor exercise in humans

01 October 2014

The present study examined whether an increase in leg blood flow and oxygen delivery at the onset of intense exercise would speed the rate of rise in leg oxygen uptake. Nine healthy men (25 ± 1 years old, mean ± SEM) performed one-leg knee-extensor exercise (62 ± 3 W, 86 ± 3% of incremental test peak power) for 4 min during a control setting (CON) and with infusion of ATP into the femoral artery in order to increase blood flow before and during exercise. In the presence of ATP, femoral arterial blood flow and O2 delivery were higher (P < 0.001) at the onset of exercise and throughout exercise (femoral arterial blood flow after 10 s, 5.1 ± 0.5 versus 2.7 ± 0.3 l min–1; after 45 s, 6.0 ± 0.5 versus 4.1 ± 0.4 l min–1; after 90 s, 6.6 ± 0.6 versus 4.5 ± 0.4 l min–1; and after 240 s, 7.0 ± 0.6 versus 5.1 ± 0.3 l min–1 in ATP and CON conditions, respectively). Leg oxygen uptake was not different in ATP and CON conditions during the first 20 s of exercise but was lower (P < 0.05) in the ATP compared with CON conditions after 30 s and until the end of exercise (30 s, 436 ± 42 versus 549 ± 45 ml min–1; and 240 s, 705 ± 31 versus 814 ± 59 ml min–1 in ATP and CON, respectively). Lactate release was lower after 60, 120 and 180 s of exercise with ATP infusion. These results suggest that O2 delivery is not limiting the rise in skeletal muscle oxygen uptake in the initial phase of intense exercise.

Erythropoietin administration alone or in combination with endurance training affects neither skeletal muscle morphology nor angiogenesis in healthy young men

01 October 2014

The aim was to investigate the ability of an erythropoiesis-stimulating agent (ESA), alone or in combination with endurance training, to induce changes in human skeletal muscle fibre and vascular morphology. In a comparative study, 36 healthy untrained men were randomly dispersed into the following four groups: sedentary–placebo (SP, n = 9); sedentary–ESA (SE, n = 9); training–placebo (TP, n = 10); or training–ESA (TE, n = 8). The ESA or placebo was injected once weekly. Training consisted of progressive bicycling three times per week for 10 weeks. Before and after the intervention period, muscle biopsies and magnetic resonance images were collected from the thigh muscles, blood was collected, body composition measured and endurance exercise performance evaluated. The ESA treatment (SE and TE) led to elevated haematocrit, and both ESA treatment and training (SE, TP and TE) increased maximal O2 uptake. With regard to skeletal muscle morphology, TP alone exhibited increases in whole-muscle cross-sectional area and fibre diameter of all fibre types. Also exclusively for TP was an increase in type IIa fibres and a corresponding decrease in type IIx fibres. Furthermore, an overall training effect (TP and TE) was statistically demonstrated in whole-muscle cross-sectional area, muscle fibre diameter and type IIa and type IIx fibre distribution. With regard to muscle vascular morphology, TP and TE both promoted a rise in capillary to muscle fibre ratio, with no differences between the two groups. There were no effects of ESA treatment on any of the muscle morphological parameters. Despite the haematopoietic effects of ESA, we provide novel evidence that endurance training rather than ESA treatment induces adaptational changes in angiogenesis and muscle morphology.

Respiratory pump contributes to increased physiological reserve for compensation during simulated haemorrhage

01 October 2014

Intrathoracic pressure regulation (IPR) represents a therapy for increasing systemic circulation through the creation of negative intrathoracic pressure. We hypothesized that using this ‘respiratory pump’ effect would slow the diminution of the physiological reserve to compensate during progressive reductions in central blood volume. The compensatory reserve index (CRI) algorithm was used to measure the proportion (from 100 to 0%) of reserve capacity that remained to compensate for central volume loss before the onset of cardiovascular decompensation. Continuous analog recordings of arterial waveforms were extracted from data files of seven healthy volunteers. Subjects had previously participated in experiments designed to induce haemodynamic decompensation (presyncope) by progressive reduction in central blood volume using graded lower-body negative pressure. The lower-body negative pressure protocol was completed while breathing spontaneously through a standard medical face mask without (placebo) and with a resistance (approximately –7 cmH2O; active IPR) applied during inspiration. At the onset of presyncope in the placebo conditions, CRI was smaller than the CRI observed at the same time point in the active IPR conditions. The CRI at the onset of presyncope during active IPR (0.08 ± 0.01) was similar to the CRI at presyncope with placebo. Kaplan–Meier and log rank tests indicated that CRI survival curves were shifted to the right by active IPR. Optimizing the respiratory pump contributed a small but significant effect of increasing tolerance to progressive reductions in central blood volume by extending the compensatory reserve.

Double disruption of {alpha}2A- and {alpha}2C-adrenoceptors induces endothelial dysfunction in mouse small arteries: role of nitric oxide synthase uncoupling

01 October 2014

Knockout mice lacking both α2A- and α2C-adrenergic receptors (α2A/α2C-ARKO) provide a model for understanding the mechanisms underlying the deleterious effects of sympathetic hyperactivity on the cardiovascular system. Thus, in the present study we investigated the vascular reactivity of large and small arteries of α2A/α2C-ARKO mice. Aorta and mesenteric small arteries (MSAs) from 7-month-old male α2A/α2C-ARKO mice and congenic C57BL6/J mice (wild-type, WT) were studied. In the aorta, noradrenaline- and serotonin-induced contraction was similar between groups, but in MSAs there was an increase in agonist-induced contraction in α2A/α2C-ARKO compared with WT. The l-NAME effect was reduced in MSAs of α2A/α2C-ARKO mice compared with WT mice, as was basal NO evaluated by a 4,5-diaminofluorescein diacetate probe. Increased total endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) protein expression was observed in MSAs from α2A/α2C-ARKO mice, while the dimer/monomer ratio of eNOS was decreased. Mesenteric small arteries from α2A/α2C-ARKO mice showed an increase in ethidium bromide-positive nuclei, indicating oxidative stress, which was attenuated by incubation with l-NAME. The sympathetic hyperactivity present in α2A/α2C-ARKO mice alters vascular reactivity only in certain types of arteries. Moreover, after chronic sympathetic hyperactivity, uncoupling eNOS may be a significant source of superoxide anion and reduced NO bioavailability in small vessels, increasing the contractile tone.

Association beween resting heart rate, shear and flow-mediated dilation in healthy adults

01 October 2014

Preclinical data have demonstrated that heart rate (HR) can directly impact vascular endothelial function, in part, through a shear-stress mechanism. This study sought to explore, in humans, the associations between resting heart rate and both shear and endothelial function assessed by flow-mediated dilation (FMD). The brachial artery FMD test was performed in 31 apparently healthy volunteers. Basal (B) and hyperaemic (H) shear were quantified in the following two ways using data from the FMD test: the traditional cumulative shear area under the curve up to peak dilation (Shearcum) method; and our novel method of shear summation (Shearsum), which accounts for HR by summing each individual cardiac cycle shear up to peak dilation. Data were grouped by tertiles based on resting HR as follows: low (LHR = 43–56 beats min–1; n = 10); middle (MHR = 58–68 beats min–1; n = 11); and high (HHR = 69–77 beats min–1; n = 10). Within the LHR group, both B-Shearcum and H-Shearcum were significantly higher (P < 0.001) than B-Shearsum and H-Shearsum, respectively, whereas in the HHR group B-Shearcum and H-Shearcum were significantly lower (P < 0.001) than B-Shearsum and H-Shearsum, respectively. The FMD in the LHR group (8.8 ± 0.8%) was significantly greater than that in both the MHR group (5.5 ± 0.8%; P = 0.009) and the HHR group (5.9 ± 0.8%; P = 0.024). These findings demonstrate the existence of a relationship between heart rate and both shear and endothelial function in humans. Moreover, these findings have implications for considering heart rate as an important physiological variable when quantifying shear and performing the FMD test.

Editorial Board

01 August 2014

A historical perspective on peripheral reflex cardiovascular control from animals to man

01 August 2014

Although drug treatment of human hypertension has greatly improved, there is renewed interest in non-drug methods of blood pressure reduction. Animal experiments have now shown that arterial baroreflexes do control long-term blood pressure levels, particularly by nervously mediated renal excretion of sodium and water. This Paton Lecture provides a review of the historical development of knowledge of peripheral circulatory control in order to supplement prior Paton Lectures concerned with cerebral cortical and other areas of influence. I also discuss how improved understanding of nervous control of the circulation has led to current methods of non-drug blood pressure control in man by implanted carotid baroreceptor pacemakers or by renal denervation. Finally, the role of other therapy, particularly listening to music, is reviewed.

Tonic arterial chemoreceptor activity contributes to cardiac sympathetic activation in mild ovine heart failure

01 August 2014

Heart failure (HF) is associated with a large increase in cardiac sympathetic nerve activity (CSNA), which has detrimental effects on the heart and promotes arrhythmias and sudden death. There is increasing evidence that arterial chemoreceptor activation plays an important role in stimulating renal sympathetic nerve activity (RSNA) and muscle sympathetic nerve activity in HF. Given that sympathetic nerve activity to individual organs is differentially controlled, we investigated whether tonic arterial chemoreceptor activation contributes to the increased CSNA in HF. We recorded CSNA and RSNA in conscious normal sheep and in sheep with mild HF induced by rapid ventricular pacing (ejection fraction <40%). Tonic arterial chemoreceptor function was evaluated by supplementing room air with 100% intranasal oxygen (2–3 l min–1) for 20 min, thereby deactivating chemoreceptors. The effects of hyperoxia on resting levels and baroreflex control of heart rate, CSNA and RSNA were determined. In HF, chemoreceptor deactivation induced by hyperoxia significantly reduced CSNA [90 ± 2 versus 75 ± 5 bursts (100 heart beats)–1, P < 0.05, n = 10; room air versus hyperoxia] and heart rate (96 ± 4 versus 85 ± 4 beats min–1, P < 0.001, n = 12). There was no change in RSNA burst incidence [93 ± 4 versus 92 ± 4 bursts (100 heart beats)–1, n = 7], although due to the bradycardia the RSNA burst frequency was decreased (90 ± 8 versus 77 ± 7 bursts min–1, P < 0.001). In normal sheep, chemoreceptor deactivation reduced heart rate without a significant effect on CSNA or RSNA. In summary, deactivation of peripheral chemoreceptors during HF reduced the elevated levels of CSNA, indicating that tonic arterial chemoreceptor activation plays a critical role in stimulating the elevated CSNA in HF.

AGTR2 gene polymorphism is associated with muscle fibre composition, athletic status and aerobic performance

01 August 2014

Muscle fibre type is a heritable trait and can partly predict athletic success. It has been proposed that polymorphisms of genes involved in the regulation of muscle fibre characteristics may predispose the muscle precursor cells of a given individual to be predominantly fast or slow. In the present study, we examined the association between 15 candidate gene polymorphisms and muscle fibre type composition of the vastus lateralis muscle in 55 physically active, healthy men. We found that rs11091046 C allele carriers of the angiotensin II type 2 receptor gene (AGTR2; involved in skeletal muscle development, metabolism and circulatory homeostasis) had a significantly higher percentage of slow-twitch fibres than A allele carriers [54.2 (11.1) versus 45.2 (10.2)%; P = 0.003]. These data indicate that 15.2% of the variation in muscle fibre composition of the vastus lateralis muscle can be explained by the AGTR2 genotype. Next, we investigated the frequencies of the AGTR2 alleles in 2178 Caucasian athletes and 1220 control subjects. The frequency of the AGTR2 C allele was significantly higher in male and female endurance athletes compared with power athletes (males, 62.7 versus 51.7%, P = 0.0038; females, 56.6 versus 48.1%, P = 0.0169) and control subjects (males, 62.7 versus 51.0%, P = 0.0006; elite female athletes, 65.1 versus 55.2%, P = 0.0488). Furthermore, the frequency of the AGTR2 A allele was significantly over-represented in female power athletes (51.9%) in comparison to control subjects (44.8%, P = 0.0069). We also found that relative maximal oxygen consumption was significantly greater in male endurance athletes with the AGTR2 C allele compared with AGTR2 A allele carriers [n = 28; 62.3 (4.4) versus 57.4 (6.0) ml min–1 kg–1; P = 0.0197]. Taken together, these results demonstrate that the AGTR2 gene C allele is associated with an increased proportion of slow-twitch muscle fibres, endurance athlete status and aerobic performance, while the A allele is associated with a higher percentage of fast-twitch fibres and power-oriented disciplines.

Dynamics of corticospinal changes during and after high-intensity quadriceps exercise

01 August 2014

This study tested the hypothesis that during fatiguing quadriceps exercise, supraspinal fatigue develops late, is associated with both increased corticospinal excitability and inhibition and recovers quickly. Eight subjects performed 20 s contractions [15 s at 50% maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) followed by 5 s MVC] separated by a 10 s rest period until task failure. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and electrical femoral nerve stimulation (PNS) were delivered ~2 s apart during 50% MVC, during MVC and after MVC in relaxed muscle. Voluntary activation was assessed by TMS (VATMS) immediately before and after exercise and then three times over a 6 min recovery period. During exercise, MVC and twitch force evoked by PNS in relaxed muscle decreased progressively to 48 ± 8 and 36 ± 16% of control values, respectively (both P < 0.01). Significant changes in voluntary activation assessed by PNS and twitch evoked by TMS during MVC were observed during the last quarter of exercise only (from 96.4 ± 1.7 to 86 ± 13%, P = 0.03 and from 0.76 ± 0.8 to 4.9 ± 4.7% MVC, = 0.02, from baseline to task failure, respectively). The TMS-induced silent period increased linearly during both MVC (by ~79 ms) and 50% MVC (by ~63 ms; both P < 0.01). Motor-evoked potential amplitude did not change during the protocol at any force levels. Both silent period and VATMS recovered within 2 min postexercise, whereas MVC and twitch force evoked by PNS in relaxed muscle recovered to only 84 ± 9 and 73 ± 17% of control values 6 min after exercise, respectively. In conclusion, high-intensity single-joint quadriceps exercise induces supraspinal fatigue near task failure, with increased intracortical inhibition and, in contrast to previous upper-limb results, unchanged corticospinal excitability. These changes recover rapidly after task failure, emphasizing the need to measure corticospinal adaptations immediately at task failure to avoid underestimation of exercise-induced corticospinal changes.

Amelioration of capillary regression and atrophy of the soleus muscle in hindlimb-unloaded rats by astaxanthin supplementation and intermittent loading

01 August 2014

A chronic decrease in neuromuscular activity (activation and/or loading) results in muscle atrophy and capillary regression that are due, in part, to the overproduction of reactive oxygen species. We have reported that antioxidant treatment with astaxanthin attenuates the overexpression of reactive oxygen species in atrophied muscles that, in turn, ameliorates capillary regression in hindlimb-unloaded rats. Astaxanthin supplementation, however, had little effect on muscle mass and fibre cross-sectional area. In contrast, intermittent loading of the hindlimbs of hindlimb-unloaded rats ameliorates muscle atrophy. Therefore, we hypothesized that the combination of astaxanthin supplementation and intermittent loading would attenuate both muscle atrophy and capillary regression during hindlimb unloading. As expected, 2 weeks of hindlimb unloading resulted in atrophy, a decrease in capillary volume and a shift towards smaller-diameter capillaries in the soleus muscle. Intermittent loading alone (1 h of cage ambulation per day) attenuated atrophy of the soleus, while astaxanthin treatment alone maintained the capillary network to near control levels. The combination of intermittent loading and astaxanthin treatment, however, ameliorated atrophy of the soleus and maintained the capillary volume and luminal diameters and the superoxide dismutase-1 protein levels near control values. These results indicate that intermittent loading combined with astaxanthin supplementation could be an effective therapy for both the muscle atrophy and the capillary regression associated with a chronic decrease in neuromuscular activity.