Hemodynamic Actions of Insulin in Rat Skeletal Muscle: Evidence for Capillary Recruitment

  1. Eugene J Barrett
  1. University of Virginia Health Sciences Center, University of Tasmania Char-lottesville, Virginia
  2. Department of Biochemistry, University of Tasmania Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
  1. Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. Stephen Rattigan, University of Virginia Health Sciences Center, MR4 Box 5116, Char-lottesville, VA, 22908. E-mail: sr2n{at}


Insulin-induced increases in blood flow are hypothesized to enhance overall glucose uptake by skeletal muscle. Whether the insulin-mediated changes in blood flow are associated with altered blood flow distribution and increased capillary recruitment in skeletal muscle is not known. In the present study, the effects of insulin on hemodynamic parameters in rat skeletal muscle in vivo were investigated. Mean arterial blood pressure, heart rate, femoral blood flow, hind leg vascular resistance, and glucose uptake were measured in control and euglycemic insulin-clamped (10 mU · min−1 · kg−1) anesthetized rats. Blood flow distribution within the hind leg muscles was assessed by measuring the metabolism of 1-methylxanthine (1-MX), an exogenously added substrate for capillary xanthine oxidase. Insulin treatment had no effect on heart rate but significantly increased arterial blood pressure (12 mmHg) and femoral blood flow (80%) and decreased hind leg vascular resistance (31%). Changes were similar in magnitude and in time of onset to those reported in humans. Insulin treatment increased hind leg glucose uptake approximately fourfold and also increased hind leg 1-MX metabolism by 50%, suggesting increased exposure to endothelial xanthine oxidase. To ascertain whether the increased 1-MX metabolism was simply due to increased bulk femoral blood flow, epinephrine was infused at a dose (0.125 pg · min−1 · kg−1) chosen to match the insulin-induced increase in femoral blood flow. This dose of epinephrine had no significant effects on arterial blood pressure or heart rate but increased femoral blood flow and lowered hind leg vascular resistance to a similar extent as insulin. Epinephrine did not significantly alter 1-MX metabolism as compared with control animals. These results demonstrate that insulin increases total hind leg blood flow and metabolism of 1-MX, suggesting a recruitment of capillary blood flow in rat hind leg not mimicked by epinephrine.

  • Received January 27, 1997.
  • Revision received April 16, 1997.
  • Accepted April 16, 1997.
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