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American journal of physiology. Regulatory, integrative and comparative physiology

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Biological sex affects the neurocirculatory adjustments to fatiguing exercise. However, the effects of sex and oral contraceptive pills (OCPs) on sympathetic action potential (AP) emission patterns and the transduction of AP discharge into vasoconstriction during static handgrip (SHG) exercise remains unknown. We tested the hypothesis that males, and females using OCPs, would demonstrate larger increases in sympathetic activation and sympathetic vascular transduction compared to naturally menstruating females during SHG and post-exercise circulatory occlusion (PECO). Young males (n=14, 25[5] yr), females using OCPs (n=16, 24[6] yr), and naturally menstruating females (n=18, 26[4] yr) underwent assessments of multi-unit muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA)/AP discharge patterns (microneurography), and femoral artery blood flow (ultrasound) during fatiguing SHG at 40% maximum voluntary contraction and 2-min PECO. Sympathetic vascular transduction was determined as the quotient of the change in leg vascular conductance (LVC) and MSNA/AP discharge. Males demonstrated greater increases in APs/burst (P=0.028) and total AP clusters (P=0.008) compared to naturally menstruating females only, but not those using OCPs during exercise. Sympathetic vascular transduction of MSNA burst amplitude, APs/burst, and total AP clusters was greater in males and females using OCPs compared to naturally menstruating females (range: P=0.004-0.044). In contrast, no group differences in AP discharge were observed during PECO (range: P=0.510-0.872), and AP discharge was not related to LVC during PECO (range: P=0.08-0.949). These data indicate that biological sex and OCP use impact the central generation of efferent AP discharge, as well as the transduction of these neuronal messages into peripheral vasoconstriction during static exercise.

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