Theoretical model of blood flow autoregulation: Roles of myogenic, shear-dependent, and metabolic responses

Brian E. Carlson, Julia C. Arciero, Timothy W. Secomb

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132 Scopus citations


The autoregulation of blood flow, the maintenance of almost constant blood flow in the face of variations in arterial pressure, is characteristic of many tissue types. Here, contributions to the autoregulation of pressure-dependent, shear stress-dependent, and metabolic vasoactive responses are analyzed using a theoretical model. Seven segments, connected in series, represent classes of vessels: arteries, large arterioles, small arterioles, capillaries, small venules, large venules, and veins. The large and small arterioles respond actively to local changes in pressure and wall shear stress and to the downstream metabolic state communicated via conducted responses. All other segments are considered fixed resistances. The myogenic, shear-dependent, and metabolic responses of the arteriolar segments are represented by a theoretical model based on experimental data from isolated vessels. To assess autoregulation, the predicted flow at an arterial pressure of 130 mmHg is compared with that at 80 mmHg. If the degree of vascular smooth muscle activation is held constant at 0.5, there is a fivefold increase in blood flow. When myogenic variation of tone is included, flow increases by a factor of 1.66 over the same pressure range, indicating weak autoregulation. The inclusion of both myogenic and shear-dependent responses results in an increase in flow by a factor of 2.43. A further addition of the metabolic response produces strong autoregulation with flow increasing by a factor of 1.18 and gives results consistent with experimental observation. The model results indicate that the combined effects of myogenic and metabolic regulation overcome the vasodilatory effect of the shear response and lead to the autoregulation of blood flow.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)H1572-H1579
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2008


  • Blood flow regulation
  • Conducted response
  • Microcirculation
  • Vascular smooth muscle
  • Vascular tone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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