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Neuroscience. 2003;120(3):667-75.

Bladder and cutaneous sensory neurons of the rat express different functional P2X receptors.

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Sensory Function, Center for Neuroscience Research, Kings College London, London Bridge, London SE1 1UL, UK.


The expression and functional responses of P2X receptors in bladder and cutaneous sensory neurons of adult rats and mice have been studied using immunohistochemistry and patch clamp techniques. Cell bodies of bladder pelvic afferents were identified in L6 and S1 dorsal root ganglia (DRG), following Fast Blue injection into the muscle wall of the urinary bladder. Similarly, cutaneous sensory neurons were identified in L3 and L4 DRG, following Fast Blue injection into the saphenous nerve innervating the skin. Bladder sensory neurons contained only weak to moderate P2X(3)-immunoreactivity (IR), in contrast to strong P2X(3)-IR observed in a sub-population of cutaneous afferents. Whole-cell patch-clamp recordings revealed that approximately 90% of bladder afferent neurons responded to alpha beta-methylene ATP (alpha beta meATP) and ATP (30 microM) with persistent currents, which were inhibited by 2',3'-O-trinitrophenyl-ATP (TNP-ATP) (0.3 microM) to 6.4+/-1.9% and 8.0+/-2.6% of control, respectively (n=8). The remaining bladder sensory neurons demonstrated biphasic, transient or no response to P2X agonists. In contrast, only 24% of cutaneous afferent neurons gave persistent currents to alpha beta meATP (30 microM), with 66% of cells giving transient or biphasic currents and the remaining 10% being non-responsive. Our results suggest that, in contrast to DRG neurons in general, bladder sensory neurons projecting via pelvic nerves express predominantly P2X(2/3) heteromeric receptors, which are likely to mediate the important roles of ATP as a signaling molecule of urinary bladder filling and nociception.

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