In the mammalian lower urinary tract, there is a reciprocal relationship between the contractile state of the bladder and urethra. As the bladder fills with urine, it remains relaxed to accommodate increases in volume, while the urethra remains contracted to prevent leakage of urine from the bladder to the exterior. Disruptions to the normal contractile state of the bladder and urethra can lead to abnormal micturition patterns and urinary incontinence. While both the bladder and urethra are smooth-muscle organs, they are differentially contracted by input from cholinergic and sympathetic nerves, respectively. The laboratory practical described here provides an experiential approach to understanding the anatomy of the lower urinary tract. Several key factors in urinary tract physiology are outlined, e.g., the bladder is contracted by activation of the parasympathetic pathway via cholinergic stimulation on muscarinic receptors, whereas the urethra is contracted by activation of the sympathetic pathway via adrenergic stimulation on α1-adrenoceptors. This is achieved by measuring the force generated by bladder and urethra smooth muscle to demonstrate that acetylcholine contracts the smooth muscle of the bladder, whereas adrenergic agonists contract the urethral smooth muscle. An inhibition of these effects is also demonstrated by application of the muscarinic receptor antagonist atropine and the α1-adrenergic receptor blocker phentolamine. A list of suggested techniques and exam questions to evaluate student understanding on this topic is also provided.
Advances in physiology education. 2018 Jun 01 [Epub]
Benjamin E Rembetski, Caroline A Cobine, Bernard T Drumm
Department of Physiology and Cell Biology, University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine , Reno, Nevada.