Theoretical model of metabolic blood flow regulation: Roles of ATP release by red blood cells and conducted responses

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


A proposed mechanism for metabolic flow regulation involves the saturation-dependent release of ATP by red blood cells, which triggers an upstream conducted response signal and arteriolar vasodilation. To analyze this mechanism, a theoretical model is used to simulate the variation of oxygen and ATP levels along a flow pathway of seven representative segments, including two vasoactive arteriolar segments. The conducted response signal is defined by integrating the ATP concentration along the vascular pathway, assuming exponential decay of the signal in the upstream direction with a length constant of ∼1 cm. Arteriolar tone depends on the conducted metabolic signal and on local wall shear stress and wall tension. Arteriolar diameters are calculated based on vascular smooth muscle mechanics. The model predicts that conducted responses stimulated by ATP release in venules and propagated to arterioles can account for increases in perfusion in response to increased oxygen demand that are consistent with experimental findings at low to moderate oxygen consumption rates. Myogenic and shear-dependent responses are found to act in opposition to this mechanism of metabolic flow regulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)H1562-H1571
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2008


  • Microcirculation
  • Myogenic response
  • Shear-dependent response

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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