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Physiol Rev. 2013 Apr;93(2):653-80. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00030.2012.

Urothelial signaling.

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Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15261, USA.


The urothelium, which lines the inner surface of the renal pelvis, the ureters, and the urinary bladder, not only forms a high-resistance barrier to ion, solute and water flux, and pathogens, but also functions as an integral part of a sensory web which receives, amplifies, and transmits information about its external milieu. Urothelial cells have the ability to sense changes in their extracellular environment, and respond to chemical, mechanical and thermal stimuli by releasing various factors such as ATP, nitric oxide, and acetylcholine. They express a variety of receptors and ion channels, including P2X3 purinergic receptors, nicotinic and muscarinic receptors, and TRP channels, which all have been implicated in urothelial-neuronal interactions, and involved in signals that via components in the underlying lamina propria, such as interstitial cells, can be amplified and conveyed to nerves, detrusor muscle cells, and ultimately the central nervous system. The specialized anatomy of the urothelium and underlying structures, and the possible communication mechanisms from urothelial cells to various cell types within the bladder wall are described. Changes in the urothelium/lamina propria ("mucosa") produced by different bladder disorders are discussed, as well as the mucosa as a target for therapeutic interventions.

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