The surface morphology of the microvasculature from mouse skeletal muscle was studied by scanning electron microscopy. Cell surfaces were exposed by digesting away extracellular collagen and other matrix by a simple HCl treatment. Four distinct subdivisions of the microvasculature (arterioles, precapillary arterioles, capillaries, and venules) were identified based on marked differences in surface features. Arterioles of 20–10 μm diameter had a discontinuous, single layer of smooth muscle cells encircling the vessel. These smooth muscle cells had an uneven surface with shallow grooves and depressions that were often oriented parallel to the longitudinal cell body axis. The underlying arteriolar endothelial surface was also rough with long ridges separating shallow furrows that were oriented parallel to the vessel length. As the arteriolar size decreased, the perivascular cell were found further apart, they became smooth surfaced, and were oriented preferentially parallel to the vessel. The endothelium of the precapillary arterioles, as well as, capillaries and venules had smooth surfaces. Venules had a discontinuous layer of flat, smooth surfaced pericytes. Morphologically distinct groups of smooth muscle cells (i.e., precapillary sphincters) were not found. Although pericytes normally associated with capillaries and other vessels were often removed during tissue processing, most cells and their surface feature were generally well preserved.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)