The internal face of the detrusor smooth muscle wall of the urinary bladder is covered by a mucosa, separating muscle from the hostile environment of urine. However, the mucosa is more than a very low permeability structure and offers a sensory structure that monitors the extent of bladder filling and composition of the urine. The mucosa may be considered as a single functional structure and comprises a tight epithelial layer under which is a basement membrane and lamina propria. The latter region itself is a complex of afferent nerves, blood vessels, interstitial cells and in some species including humans a muscularis mucosae. Stress on the bladder wall through physical or chemical stressors elicits release of chemicals, such as ATP, acetylcholine, prostaglandins and nitric oxide, that modulate the activity of either afferent nerves or the muscular components of the bladder wall. The release and responses are graded so that the mucosa forms a dynamic sensory structure and there is evidence that the gain of this system is increased in pathologies such as overactive bladder and bladder pain syndrome. This system therefore potentially provides a number of drug targets against these conditions, once a number of fundamental questions are answered. These include: how is mediator release regulated; what are the intermediate roles of interstitial cells that surround afferent nerves and blood vessels as; what is the mode of communication between urothelium and muscle – by diffusion of mediators or by cell-to-cell communication?
Bibliographical noteSpecial Issue: MiniReviews and original article from The Scandinavian Physiological Society Annual Meeting, 17–20 September 2015, Aarhus Denmark
- spontaneous contractions
- sensory signaling
- sensory mediators