Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) protein and capillarization were determined in muscle vastus lateralis biopsy samples in individuals with essential hypertension (n = 10) and normotensive controls (n = 10). The hypertensive individuals performed exercise training for 16 weeks. Muscle samples as well as muscle microdialysis fluid samples were obtained at rest, during and after an acute exercise bout, performed prior to and after the training period, for the determination of muscle VEGF levels, VEGF release, endothelial cell proliferative effect and capillarization.
Prior to training, the hypertensive individuals had 36% lower levels of VEGF protein and 22% lower capillary density in the muscle compared to controls. Training in the hypertensive group reduced (P < 0.01) mean arterial blood pressure by 7.1 ± 0.8 mmHg, enhanced (P < 0.01) the capillary-to-fiber ratio by 17% and elevated (P < 0.05) muscle VEGF protein by 67%. Before training, acute exercise did not induce an increase in muscle interstitial VEGF levels above resting levels, but a five-fold increase (P < 0.05) was observed after the training period. Acute exercise induced an elevated (P < 0.05) endothelial cell proliferative effect of muscle dialysate after, but not before, training.
In summary, exercise training markedly elevates VEGF protein levels in muscle tissue, increases exercise-induced VEGF release from muscle and the cell proliferative effect of muscle dialysate. These alterations are paralleled by a lowering of blood pressure and an increased capillary-per-fiber ratio, but unaltered capillary density.