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Exp Physiol. 1999 Jan;84(1):137-47.

The spontaneously hypertensive rat: insight into the pathogenesis of irritative symptoms in benign prostatic hyperplasia and young anxious males.

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Department of Urology, University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville 22908, USA.


Recent epidemiological studies have shown that hypertensive men are more likely to undergo surgical intervention for irritative voiding symptoms from BPH than age-matched controls. Indeed, noradrenergic nerves which regulate vascular tone also participate in the functional component of bladder outlet obstruction due to BPH. Newer, less invasive therapies for BPH such as thermal therapy can relieve symptoms yet do not eliminate obstruction based on urodynamic studies. Coincidentally, drugs such as alpha-adrenoceptor antagonists, which have been thought to relieve obstruction due to a peripheral effect, can be given intrathecally in animals to relieve urinary frequency due to obstruction. Taken together these observations implicate both peripheral and central sympathetic pathways in the motor control of the urinary bladder especially with disease states. We have used the hypertensive and behaviourally hyperactive spontaneously hypertensive rat (SHR), to investigate the roles sympathetic pathways or micturition. Elevated nerve growth factor (NGF) derived from vascular and bladder smooth muscle cells of the SHR appears to direct morphological, biochemical, and functional changes. The increase in NGF can apparently be explained by stabilization of its mRNA leading to increased synthesis in NGF. Bladders from SHRs develop a profuse noradrenergic hyperinnervation compared with the control WKY strain. Since afferents supplying the SHR bladder are hypertrophied, changes in afferent pathways are also likely. These differences in innervation and NGF in the SHR may explain changes in function. SHRs void 3 times as frequently as their genetic controls. Urinary frequency can be reduced by alpha-adrenoceptor antagonists. Cystometrograms performed in SHRs reveal lower bladder capacities and micturition volumes and the presence of unstable contractions compared with the WKY rat. Intrathecal, rather than intra-arterial administration of the alpha-adrenoceptor antagonist doxazosin reduces unstable contractions in the SHR. In vitro muscle bath studies have shown enhanced responses of SHR bladder smooth muscle to alpha-adrenoceptor agonists. It is likely that upregulation of NGF production causes sensory and possibly noradrenergic pathways to elicit hyperactive voiding. Increase in NGF in the adult bladder due to pathological conditions yields similar, yet distinct, consequences for voiding behaviour and innervation. Likewise, increased NGF in adult bladders following obstruction or inflammation triggers neuronal hypertrophy, enhanced reflex activity and urinary frequency. In contrast to the SHR, hyper-innervation is not observed. Moreover, peripheral or spinal alpha-adrenoceptor blockade eliminates urinary frequency following obstruction. These observations support the role for sympathetic pathways in the motor function of the bladder, especially in congenital or adult disease states. A similar process may underlie the neuroplasticity involved in alterations after obstruction or inflammation of the lower urinary tract in humans. The SHR strain raises the possibility that a common genetic defect exists capable of predisposing to both hypertension and overactivity of the urinary bladder. Whether a genetic predisposition to sustained bladder overactivity in response to inflammatory stimuli in obstruction exists in humans is an intriguing prospect.

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