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Autoregulation of perfusion

As the name would suggest, autoregulation mechanisms require neither specialized nervous stimulation nor endocrine control. Rather, these are local, self-regulatory mechanisms that allow each region of tissue to adjust its blood flow—and thus its perfusion. These local mechanisms include chemical signals and myogenic controls.

Chemical signals involved in autoregulation

Chemical signals work at the level of the precapillary sphincters to trigger either constriction or relaxation. As you know, opening a precapillary sphincter allows blood to flow into that particular capillary, whereas constricting a precapillary sphincter temporarily shuts off blood flow to that region. The factors involved in regulating the precapillary sphincters include the following:

  • Opening of the sphincter is triggered in response to decreased oxygen concentrations; increased carbon dioxide concentrations; increasing levels of lactic acid or other byproducts of cellular metabolism; increasing concentrations of potassium ions or hydrogen ions (falling pH); inflammatory chemicals such as histamines; and increased body temperature. These conditions in turn stimulate the release of NO, a powerful vasodilator, from endothelial cells (see [link] ).
  • Contraction of the precapillary sphincter is triggered by the opposite levels of the regulators, which prompt the release of endothelins, powerful vasoconstricting peptides secreted by endothelial cells. Platelet secretions and certain prostaglandins may also trigger constriction.

Again, these factors alter tissue perfusion via their effects on the precapillary sphincter mechanism, which regulates blood flow to capillaries. Since the amount of blood is limited, not all capillaries can fill at once, so blood flow is allocated based upon the needs and metabolic state of the tissues as reflected in these parameters. Bear in mind, however, that dilation and constriction of the arterioles feeding the capillary beds is the primary control mechanism.

The myogenic response

The myogenic response    is a reaction to the stretching of the smooth muscle in the walls of arterioles as changes in blood flow occur through the vessel. This may be viewed as a largely protective function against dramatic fluctuations in blood pressure and blood flow to maintain homeostasis. If perfusion of an organ is too low (ischemia), the tissue will experience low levels of oxygen (hypoxia). In contrast, excessive perfusion could damage the organ’s smaller and more fragile vessels. The myogenic response is a localized process that serves to stabilize blood flow in the capillary network that follows that arteriole.

When blood flow is low, the vessel’s smooth muscle will be only minimally stretched. In response, it relaxes, allowing the vessel to dilate and thereby increase the movement of blood into the tissue. When blood flow is too high, the smooth muscle will contract in response to the increased stretch, prompting vasoconstriction that reduces blood flow.

[link] summarizes the effects of nervous, endocrine, and local controls on arterioles.

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Source:  OpenStax, Anatomy & Physiology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 04, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11496/1.8
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