The ability to enhance muscle size and function is important for overall health. In this study, skeletal myofiber vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) was hypothesized to regulate hypertrophy, capillarity, and contractile function in response to functional overload (FO). Adult myofiber-specific VEGF gene-ablated mice (skmVEGF−/−) and wild-type (WT) littermates underwent plantaris FO or sham surgery (SHAM). Mass, morphology, in vivo function, IGF-1, basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF), hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), and Akt were measured at 7, 14, and 30 days. FO resulted in hypertrophy in both genotypes, but fiber sizes were 13% and 23% smaller after 14 and 30 days, respectively, and mass 15% less after 30 days in skmVEGF−/− than WT. FO increased isometric force after 30 days in WT and decreased in skmVEGF−/− after 7 and 14 days. FO also resulted in a reduction in specific force and this differed between genotypes at 14 days. Fatigue resistance improved only in 14-day WT mice. Capillary density was decreased by FO in both genotypes. However, capillary-to-fiber ratios were 19% and 15% lower in skmVEGF−/− than WT at the 14- and 30-day time points, respectively. IGF-1 was increased by FO at all time points and was 45% and 40% greater in skmVEGF−/− than WT after 7 and 14 days, respectively. bFGF, HGF, total Akt, and phospho-Akt, independent of VEGF expression, and VEGF levels in WT were increased after 7 days of FO. These findings suggest VEGF-dependent capillary maintenance supports muscle growth and function in overloaded muscle and is not rescued by compensatory IGF-1 expression.
- functional overload
- muscle force
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