Altered distribution of interstitial cells and innervation in the rat urinary bladder following spinal cord injury

Louise Johnston, R. Cunningham, John Young, C. Fry, G. McMurray, R. Eccles, K. McCloskey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Changes in the distribution of interstitial cells (IC) are reportedly associated with dysfunctional bladder. The present study investigated whether spinal cord injury (SCI) resulted in changes to IC subpopulations (vimentin-positive with the ultrastructural profile of IC), smooth muscle and nerves within the bladder wall and correlated cellular remodelling with functional properties. Methods: Bladders from SCI (T8/9 transection) and sham-operated rats five-weeks post-injury were used for ex vivo pressure-volume experiments or processed for morphological analysis with transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and light/confocal microscopy. Results: Pressure-volume relationships revealed low-pressure, hypercompliance in SCI bladders indicative of decompensation. Extensive networks of vimentin-positive IC were typical in sham lamina propria and detrusor but were markedly reduced post-SCI; semi-quantitative analysis showed significant reduction. Nerves labelled with anti-neurofilament and anti-vAChT were notably decreased post-SCI. TEM revealed lamina propria IC and detrusor IC which formed close synaptic-like contacts with vesicle-containing nerve varicosities in shams. Lamina propria and detrusor IC were ultrastructurally damaged post-SCI with retracted/lost cell processes and were adjacent to areas of cellular debris and neuronal degradation. Smooth muscle hypertrophy was common to SCI tissues. Conclusions: IC populations in bladder wall were decreased five weeks post-SCI, accompanied with reduced innervation, smooth muscle hypertrophy and increased compliance. These novel findings indicate that bladder wall remodelling post-SCI affects the integrity of interactions between smooth muscle, nerves and IC, with compromised IC populations. Correlation between IC reduction and a hypercompliant phenotype suggests that disruption to bladder IC contribute to pathophysiological processes underpinning the dysfunctional SCI bladder.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1533-1543
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2012


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