Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in the autonomic control of bladder function

Eur J Pharmacol. 2000 Mar 30;393(1-3):137-40. doi: 10.1016/s0014-2999(00)00008-x.


Micturition is achieved through complex neurological mechanisms involving somatic, autonomic and central components. This article briefly reviews recent findings on the autonomic control of urinary bladder function. Neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors mediate fast synaptic transmission in autonomic ganglia, and activation of nicotinic receptors in parasympathetic bladder neurons produces contraction of the detrusor muscle. Autonomic ganglia contain transcripts for the alpha(3), alpha(4), alpha(5), alpha(7), beta(2) and beta(4) nicotinic subunits, which can assemble to form multiple nicotinic receptor subtypes, but the exact nicotinic receptor subunit composition in bladder ganglia is unknown. Mutant mice lacking the alpha(3) or the beta(2) and the beta(4) nicotinic subunits have enlarged bladders with dribbling urination and develop urinary infection and bladder stones. Bladder strips from alpha(3) null mice do not respond to nicotine but contract when stimulated with a muscarinic agonist or electric field stimulation. Mice lacking the beta(2) subunit have no overt bladder phenotype, and their bladders contract in response to nicotine. Surprisingly, bladder strips from beta(4) mutant mice do not respond to nicotine despite the absence of major bladder dysfunction in vivo. These findings suggest that nicotinic receptors containing the alpha(3) and the beta(4) subunits are necessary for normal bladder function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / deficiency
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / physiology*
  • Urinary Bladder / physiology*


  • Receptors, Nicotinic