Effects of longitudinal stretch on VSM tone and distensibility of muscular conduit arteries.
With progressing age, large arteries diminish their longitudinal stretch, which in extreme cases results in tortuosity. Increased age is also associated with loss of vessel distensibility. We measured pressure-diameter curves from muscular porcine carotid arteries ex vivo at different longitudinal stretch ratios (lambda(z) = 1.4 and 1.8) and under different vascular smooth muscle (VSM) conditions (fully relaxed, normal VSM tone, and maximally contracted). Distensibility was found to be halved by decreasing longitudinal stretch from lambda(z) = 1.8 to 1.4 at physiological pressures. This counterintuitive observation is possible because highly nonlinear elastic modulus of the artery and anisotropic properties. Furthermore, a significantly larger basal VSM contraction was observed at lambda(z) = 1.8 than 1.4, although this was clearly not related to a myogenic response during inflation. This dependence of VSM tone to longitudinal stretch may have possible implications on the functional characteristics of the arterial wall.