Evidence for functional alterations in the skeletal muscle mechanoreflex and metaboreflex in hypertensive rats

Anna K. Leal, Maurice A. Williams, Mary G. Garry, Jere H. Mitchell, Scott A. Smith

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67 Scopus citations


Exercise in hypertensive individuals elicits exaggerated increases in mean arterial pressure (MAP) and heart rate (HR) that potentially enhance the risk for adverse cardiac events or stroke. Evidence suggests that exercise pressor reflex function (EPR; a reflex originating in skeletal muscle) is exaggerated in this disease and contributes significantly to the potentiated cardiovascular responsiveness. However, the mechanism of EPR overactivity in hypertension remains unclear. EPR function is mediated by the muscle mechanoreflex (activated by stimulation of mechanically sensitive afferent fibers) and metaboreflex (activated by stimulation of chemically sensitive afferent fibers). Therefore, we hypothesized the enhanced cardiovascular response mediated by the EPR in hypertension is due to functional alterations in the muscle mechanoreflex and metaboreflex. To test this hypothesis, mechanically and chemically sensitive afferent fibers were selectively activated in normotensive Wistar-Kyoto (WKY) and spontaneously hypertensive (SHR) decerebrate rats. Activation of mechanically sensitive fibers by passively stretching hindlimb muscle induced significantly greater increases in MAP and HR in SHR than WKY over a wide range of stimulus intensities. Activation of chemically sensitive fibers by administering capsaicin (0.01-1.00 μg/100 μl) into the hindlimb arterial supply induced increases in MAP that were significantly greater in SHR compared with WKY. However, HR responses to capsaicin were not different between the two groups at any dose. This data is consistent with the concept that the abnormal EPR control of MAP described previously in hypertension is mediated by both mechanoreflex and metaboreflex overactivity. In contrast, the previously reported alterations in the EPR control of HR in hypertension may be principally due to overactivity of the mechanically sensitive component of the reflex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)H1429-H1438
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2008


  • Blood pressure
  • Heart rate
  • Muscle afferents


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