The endothelial glycocalyx is the negatively charged, gel-like mesh residing at the luminal side of the vascular endothelium and forming the interface between the flowing blood and the vessel wall. The vast majority of glycocalyx volume resides in the microcirculation, particularly in the capillaries. Intravital microscopic observations of capillaries in striated muscle preparations illustrate that under resting conditions, the glycocalyx is not accessible for flowing red blood cells and greatly hinders plasma flow in the axial direction, causing a significant reduction in functionally perfused capillary volume. Glycocalyx exclusion properties have been shown to be reduced by adenosine and other vasoactive substances. A diminished exclusion of circulating blood by the glycocalyx may facilitate nutrient exchange since it is associated with an increase in functionally perfused blood volume and surface area in the capillaries. Our recent studies have focused on the effect of adenosine on glycocalyx exclusion in the coronary circulation and demonstrate an important role for this mechanism in the increase in circulating coronary blood volume during administration of this vasodilator. The current review elaborates on the glycocalyx as a blood-excluding intravascular layer and how it can be modulated by various agonists. Further, the potential role of adenosine-induced modulation of glycocalyx exclusion properties in coupling increases in blood flow and circulating blood volume in the coronary circulation is discussed. Finally, we consider how degradation of the glycocalyx may impact on coronary blood volume regulation, thereby providing new opportunities to diagnose glycocalyx damage in the clinical setting.
- Coronary circulation
- Blood volume recruitment