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Effect Of Metabolic Products Of Muscular Contraction On Discharge Of Group III And IV Afferents

D. M. Rotto, M. P. Kaufman

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Static muscular contraction has been firmly established to reflexly increase cardiovascular and ventilatory function. Although group III and IV fibers with endings in muscle have been shown to comprise the afferent arm of this reflex arc, little is known about the nature of the contraction-induced stimulus causing the activation of these fibers. This stimulus has often been suggested to be a metabolic product of muscular contraction. We have therefore recorded the impulse activity of group III and IV afferents with endings in the triceps surae muscles of barbiturate-anesthetized cats while we injected into the femoral artery substances believed to be metabolic products of muscular contraction. We found that lithium and sodium lactate (400 mM; 1 ml) had little or no effect on the discharge of group III and IV afferents. Likewise, monobasic sodium phosphate (20 and 400 mM; 1 ml) and 2-chloroadenosine (50–100 micrograms) had only trivial effects on the discharge of these afferents. By contrast, lactic acid (25 and 400 mM; 1 ml) and arachidonic acid (0.5–2.0 mg) caused significant increases in the activity of group III and IV afferents. Most of the excitatory effect of arachidonic acid on the discharge of the afferents was prevented by indomethacin, a cyclooxygenase inhibitor. We conclude that of the substances tested in our experiments, lactic acid and some cyclooxygenase products, such as prostaglandins and thromboxanes, are the most likely to be responsible for any metabolic stimulation of group III and IV afferents during muscular contraction.