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Br J Pharmacol. 1993 Nov;110(3):989-94.

Capsaicin-induced relaxation in the rat isolated external urethral sphincter: characterization of the vanilloid receptor and mediation by CGRP.

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  • 1Menarini Ricerche Sud, Pharmacology Department, Pomezia, (Rome), Italy.


1. The potential role of capsaicin-sensitive nerves in the relaxation of the rat external urethral sphincter (REUS) was evaluated by demonstrating the existence of specific vanilloid (capsaicin) receptors and by investigating the sensory neurotransmitter(s) putatively involved in this relaxation. 2. Capsaicin (1 microM) relaxed REUS strips precontracted with noradrenaline (NA) (0.1 mM). This effect underwent desensitization and it was absent in preparations taken from adult capsaicin-pretreated rats. 3. Capsaicin-induced relaxation of NA-precontracted REUS was mimicked by calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP, 0.3-10 microM), but not by substance P (1 microM), vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP, 1 microM), alpha-beta methylene ATP (10 microM), gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA, 3 mM) or galanin (1 microM). A cross-tachyphylaxis between capsaicin (1 microM) and CGRP (1 microM) was observed. Both capsaicin and CGRP-induced relaxation were partially antagonized by the proposed CGRP antagonist, CGRP (8-37) (10 microM). 4. Electrical field stimulation (EFS, 2.5 Hz, 60 V, 1 ms, trains of 5 s every 5 min) of REUS evoked a contraction characterized by a largely adrenergic slowly developing tonic contraction with superimposed fast twitches due to the striated component of the strips. Both capsaicin (1 microM) and CGRP (0.01-1 microM) produced an almost complete inhibition of EFS-induced tonic contraction. A cross-tachyphylaxis between capsaicin and CGRP was observed. Furthermore, these inhibitory actions were unaffected by CGRP (8-37) (10 microM). 5. [3H]-resiniferatoxin displayed specific, saturable binding to rat urethral membranes. Data were consistent with a single site with a Kd of 105 pM and a Bmax of 40 fmol mg-1 protein. This binding was inhibited by capsaicin with a Ki of 0.6 microM and it was reduced by approximately 80% in preparations taken from rats that had undergone surgical ablation of the major pelvic ganglion 4 days earlier.6. In conclusion we have demonstrated the existence of vanilloid receptors on capsaicin-sensitive nerves innervating the rat urethra mainly through the major pelvic ganglion. The activation of this set of nerves could lead to a local release of CGRP that in turn elicits a remarkable urethral relaxation. Such a mechanism could be of relevance in physiological conditions to facilitate urine expulsion during micturition and in pathological conditions to help removal of noxious stimuli following mechanical/chemical irritation of the lower urinary tract.

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