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Adenosine and nitric oxide in exercise-induced human skeletal muscle vasodilatation


Ylva Hellsten Copenhagen Muscle Research Centre, August Krogh Institute, Human Physiology, Universitetsparken 13, DK-2100 Copenhagen, Ø, Denmark


The vasoactive substances adenosine and nitric oxide (NO) are credible candidates in the local regulation of skeletal muscle blood flow. Adenosine and NO have both been shown to increase in skeletal muscle cells and interstitial fluid during exercise and the enzymes responsible for their formation, AMP 5′-nucleotidase and NO synthase (NOS), have been shown to be activated upon muscle contraction. In vitro as well as in vivo evidence suggest that the contraction-induced increase in interstitial adenosine concentration largely stems from extracellular formation via the membrane-bound ecto-form of AMP 5′-nucleotidase. It remains unclear whether the exercise-induced NO formation in muscle originates from endothelial NOS in the microvascular endothelium, or from neuronal NOS (nNOS) in nerve cells and muscle fibres. Functional evidence for the role of adenosine in muscle blood flow control stems from studies using adenosine receptor agonists and antagonsits, adenosine deaminase or adenosine uptake inhibitors. The majority of these studies have been performed on laboratory animals and, although the results show some discrepancy, the majority of studies indicate that adenosine does participate in the regulation of muscle blood flow. In humans, evidence is lacking. The role of NO in the regulation of skeletal muscle blood flow has mainly been studied using NOS inhibitors. Despite a large number of studies in this area, the role of NO for the contraction-induced increase in skeletal muscle blood flow is uncertain. The majority, but not all, human and animal studies show that, whereas blockade of NOS reduces muscle blood flow at rest and in recovery from exercise, there is no effect on the exercise-induced increase in muscle perfusion. Conclusive evidence for the mechanisms underlying the precise regulation of the multiphased increase in skeletal muscle blood flow during exercise and the role and potency of various vasoactive substances, remain missing.