Capillary geometrical changes with fiber shortening in rat myocardium.
Capillary-to-fiber geometrical relations constitute an integral component of peripheral gas exchange. Determination of capillary length and surface area density necessitates quantification of capillary orientation (i.e., tortuosity and branching). In skeletal muscle, capillary tortuosity increases in a curvilinear fashion at reduced sarcomere length, and this compensates for decreased capillary density as fiber cross-sectional area increases. To investigate these relations in myocardium, rat hearts were glutaraldehyde perfusion-fixed in calcium- or barium-induced "systole" to provide varying degrees of fiber shortening. Morphometric techniques were used to analyze capillary geometry in subepicardium (EPI) and subendocardium (ENDO) using 1-micron sections cut transverse and longitudinal to the muscle fiber axis. Capillary density on transverse and longitudinal sections, capillary diameter, fiber cross-sectional area, and sarcomere length were determined in each region. Capillary surface density was computed, and values were related to sarcomere length and compared with published data for diastolic hearts. Sarcomere length in systole ranged from 2.06 +/- 0.03 to 1.35 +/- 0.02 microns (EPI) and from 1.93 +/- 0.04 to 1.44 +/- 0.04 microns (ENDO). Fiber cross-sectional area (EPI, 344 +/- 13 microns2; ENDO, 343 +/- 12 microns2) was significantly larger, and capillary density on transverse sections was significantly smaller (EPI, 4,105 +/- 318 mm-2; ENDO, 4,145 +/- 267 mm-2) than in hearts arrested in diastole. Compared with skeletal muscle, capillary tortuosity was substantially less increased by fiber shortening. Capillary tortuosity and branching did not differ between EPI and ENDO and contributed a maximum of 33% (range, 13-33%) to capillary length density and surface area at a sarcomere length of 1.45 +/- 0.04 microns. Compared with diastolic hearts, capillary length density decreased on average by 19.6% (EPI) and 17.7% (ENDO); similarly, capillary surface density decreased 19.9% (EPI) and 13.7% (ENDO). We conclude that, with fiber shortening in the heart, fiber cross-sectional area increases and capillary numerical density decreases as predicted from reduced sarcomere length. Combined with the minimal geometrical changes of the capillary bed at shorter fiber lengths, this results in a lower capillary length and surface area per fiber volume in systole. Consequently, the structural potential for O2 diffusion into myocytes is determined, in part, by fiber length.
- Copyright © 1992 by American Heart Association