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Lab Invest. 1997 Jul;77(1):37-49.

Distribution and colocalization of calcitonin gene-related peptide, tachykinins, and vasoactive intestinal peptide in normal and idiopathic unstable human urinary bladder.

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  • 1Division of Surgery, Repatriation General Hospital, Daw Park, Australia.


The distribution of nerves containing calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), substance P (SP), neurokinin A (NKA), and vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) was examined in the human urinary bladder, using both single- and double-label immunohistochemistry. Nerves containing CGRP and tachykinins were typically present within the subepithelial region, encircling intramural ganglia and around blood vessels. These nerves were sparsely distributed, and only very rarely projected to the smooth muscle bundles of the detrusor. In contrast, VIP-containing nerves formed a dense subepithelial plexus and also projected to the detrusor muscle bundles. The double-label studies revealed that approximately 26% +/- 10% of CGRP-immunoreactive nerves also contained SP and NKA, but that no CGRP fibers coexpressed VIP. Conversely, all SP-immunoreactive fibers also contained CGRP, and many coexpressed NKA. At least three neurochemically distinct populations of nerves can therefore be discerned in the human bladder: VIP/-, CGRP/-, and CGRP/SP/ +/- NKA. The density of CGRP and SP-immunoreactive nerves within the subepithelium of 14 women with urodynamically-proven idiopathic detrusor instability was increased by 82% (p = 0.003) and 94% (p = 0.036), respectively, relative to that of 14 control women with no symptoms of frequency or urgency. This effect was not due to an increase in overall nerve density, because immunoreactivity for the general nerve marker, protein gene product, was not significantly different between the two groups (p = 0.21). The results indicate that at least some patients with detrusor instability demonstrate increases in a specific class of nerve fibers containing CGRP and SP. These peptides are characteristic of sensory neurons in a number of species, suggesting that abnormalities in the afferent arm of the micturition reflex may be associated with detrusor instability.

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