Afferent nerve fibres in the wall of the rat urinary bladder
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Structure and distribution of afferent nerve fibres in the rat bladder were studied by fluorescence microscopy after selective staining with antibodies against neuropeptide CGRP. Afferent fibres are very abundant (by comparison with other viscera) and interconnected in all bladder parts: muscle, urothelium, connective tissue, blood vessels, serosa. Their highest concentration is beneath the urothelium in equatorial and caudal regions, where they form a plexus, while individually maintaining a tree-like structure with innumerable branches running without preferential orientation. In cranial regions, mucosal afferent fibres become rare or absent. Abundant fibres are found in the detrusor, within each muscle bundle, with long strings of varicosities parallel to muscle cells. Afferent fibres, invariably varicose over hundreds of micrometres of their terminal parts and while still branching, comprise chains of hundreds of varicosities. Varicosities are irregular in size, frequency and separation, without specialised terminal structures around them, or within or around the fibre’s ending. The possibility that varicosities are transduction points for sensory inputs is discussed, with the implication of a process taking place over considerable length in each branch of each fibre. Interconnectedness of afferent nerves of various bladder tissues, distribution of varicosities over hundreds of micrometres along axonal branches, absence of clear target structures for the fibres, apparent irregularity in the size and sequence of varicosities suggest an innervation that is not rigidly wired with distinct sensory pathways. In fact, the structural evidence suggests extensive afferent integration at the periphery, with wide distribution of source points and broad range of physical detectors.
KeywordsUrinary bladder Afferent nerves Axon structure Sensory endings Varicose fibres
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Conflict of interest
The author declares that there are no conflicts of interest.
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