Vesicoanal, urethroanal, and urethrovesical reflexes initiated by lower urinary tract irritation in the rat

Am J Physiol. 1999 Oct;277(4):R1002-12. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.1999.277.4.R1002.


Irritation of the urinary bladder causes activation of normally "silent" nociceptive primary afferent fibers. In the present study, it is reported that irritation of the urinary bladder or urethra with infusion of 0.5% acetic acid robustly activates motoneurons that innervate the striated muscle of the external anal sphincter via spinal reflex mechanisms. The activation of anal motoneurons following irritation of the bladder and urethra are termed vesicoanal and urethroanal reflexes, respectively. The reflexes can be mimicked by acute application of capsaicin to the bladder and urethra, and they show desensitization following prolonged topical application of capsaicin or following chronic systemic pretreatment with capsaicin. The reflexes can be demonstrated in chronic spinal cord-transected animals, indicating that the reflex pathways are organized within the spinal cord. The urethroanal reflex is also physiologically activated by urethral distension and/or increases in intraluminal pressure. In addition to activation of anal sphincter activity, slight distension, pressure increases, or instillation of 0.5% acetic acid into the urethra inhibited bladder contractions through activation of an inhibitory urethrovesical reflex. These reflexes are discussed in terms of clinical characteristics of urethritis and prostatitis. Anecdotally, it was discovered that the bladder can buffer acetic acid.

MeSH terms

  • Acetic Acid / pharmacology
  • Anal Canal / physiopathology*
  • Animals
  • Capsaicin / pharmacology
  • Decerebrate State / physiopathology
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reflex / physiology*
  • Sodium Chloride / pharmacology
  • Urethra / physiopathology*
  • Urinary Bladder / drug effects
  • Urinary Bladder / physiopathology*
  • Urologic Diseases / physiopathology*


  • Sodium Chloride
  • Acetic Acid
  • Capsaicin