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Br J Pharmacol. 2006 Feb;147 Suppl 2:S25-40.

Integrative control of the lower urinary tract: preclinical perspective.

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Department of Pharmacology, University of Pittsburgh Medical School, Pittsburgh, PA 15261, USA.


Storage and periodic expulsion of urine is regulated by a neural control system in the brain and spinal cord that coordinates the reciprocal activity of two functional units in the lower urinary tract (LUT): (a) a reservoir (the urinary bladder) and (b) an outlet (bladder neck, urethra and striated muscles of the urethral sphincter). Control of the bladder and urethral outlet is dependent on three sets of peripheral nerves: parasympathetic, sympathetic and somatic nerves that contain afferent as well as efferent pathways. Afferent neurons innervating the bladder have A-delta or C-fibre axons. Urine storage reflexes are organized in the spinal cord, whereas voiding reflexes are mediated by a spinobulbospinal pathway passing through a coordination centre (the pontine micturition centre) located in the brainstem. Storage and voiding reflexes are activated by mechanosensitive A-delta afferents that respond to bladder distension. Many neurotransmitters including acetylcholine, norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, excitatory and inhibitory amino acids, adenosine triphosphate, nitric oxide and neuropeptides are involved in the neural control of the LUT. Injuries or diseases of the nervous system as well as disorders of the peripheral organs can produce LUT dysfunctions including: (1) urinary frequency, urgency and incontinence or (2) inefficient voiding and urinary retention. Neurogenic detrusor overactivity is triggered by C-fibre bladder afferent axons, many of which terminate in the close proximity to the urothelium. The urothelial cells exhibit 'neuron-like' properties that allow them to respond to mechanical and chemical stimuli and to release transmitters that can modulate the activity of afferent nerves.

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