Purinergic Signalling

, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 103–155 | Cite as

Purinergic signalling in the urinary tract in health and disease

  • Geoffrey Burnstock
Review Article


Purinergic signalling is involved in a number of physiological and pathophysiological activities in the lower urinary tract. In the bladder of laboratory animals there is parasympathetic excitatory cotransmission with the purinergic and cholinergic components being approximately equal, acting via P2X1 and muscarinic receptors, respectively. Purinergic mechanosensory transduction occurs where ATP, released from urothelial cells during distension of bladder and ureter, acts on P2X3 and P2X2/3 receptors on suburothelial sensory nerves to initiate the voiding reflex, via low threshold fibres, and nociception, via high threshold fibres. In human bladder the purinergic component of parasympathetic cotransmission is less than 3 %, but in pathological conditions, such as interstitial cystitis, obstructed and neuropathic bladder, the purinergic component is increased to 40 %. Other pathological conditions of the bladder have been shown to involve purinoceptor-mediated activities, including multiple sclerosis, ischaemia, diabetes, cancer and bacterial infections. In the ureter, P2X7 receptors have been implicated in inflammation and fibrosis. Purinergic therapeutic strategies are being explored that hopefully will be developed and bring benefit and relief to many patients with urinary tract disorders.


Bladder Urethra Ureter Detrusor overactivity Cancer Infection 



Anthony Ford made particularly helpful suggestions that improved the first draft of this review. The author is very grateful to Dr Gillian E. Knight for her invaluable assistance in the preparation of this review article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Autonomic Neuroscience CentreUniversity College Medical SchoolLondonUK
  2. 2.Department of PharmacologyUniversity of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia

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