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J Urol. 2006 Apr;175(4):1417-21.

Striated muscle fiber compositions of human male urethral rhabdosphincter and levator ani.

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  • 1Department of Oncological Science (Urology) and Brain and Nerve Science (Internal Medicine Three), Oita University Faculty of Medicine, Oita, Japan. sumino@oita-med.ac.jp



We clarified the contractile properties of human male periurethral striated muscle fibers to better understand how the rhabdosphincter and the levator ani maintain urinary continence.


Muscle specimens were obtained from 52 male patients who underwent radical prostatectomy or radical cystectomy. The specimens were frozen in liquid nitrogen. Frozen sections (10 microm thick) were stained with myofibrillar ATPase at different pH values (pH 4.2, 4.6 and 10.6), and evaluated for quantitative parameters and fiber type distribution. Myosin heavy chain analysis was performed using SDS-PAGE.


Of all 52 cases 37 provided specimens that could be divided into the 2 major fiber types, type 1 (slow twitch) and type 2 (fast twitch). Although type 1 muscle fibers were predominant in RS and LA muscle groups (RS 69.6 +/- 2.7%, LA 67.0 +/- 2.0%), mean muscle fiber size was significantly smaller in RS (mean area 906 +/- 86 microm(2)) than in LA (mean area 2,967 +/- 170 microm(2)) (p <0.0001). In 11 specimens type 2 muscle fibers could be subdivided into types 2A (fast fatigue resistant) and 2B (fast fatigable). Type 2A fibers were significantly more prevalent than type 2B fibers (p <0.05). Likewise, MHC analysis of these 11 specimens found a significantly higher percentage of fiber type 2A expression products (MHC 2A) than of fiber type 2B expression products (MHC 2X) (p <0.05).


RS and LA contribute to urinary continence mechanism by slow contraction. Moreover, the smaller mean size of muscle fibers in RS suggests more fatigue resistance compared with muscle fibers in LA because small fibers have a shorter diffusion distance for metabolic substrates. These results should help contribute to a more detailed understanding of the function of periurethral striated muscles in the human male.

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