Drug Insight: biological effects of botulinum toxin A in the lower urinary tract

Nat Clin Pract Urol. 2008 Jun;5(6):319-28. doi: 10.1038/ncpuro1124. Epub 2008 May 6.


Botulinum toxins can effectively and selectively disrupt and modulate neurotransmission in striated muscle. Recently, urologists have become interested in the use of these toxins in patients with detrusor overactivity and other urological disorders. In both striated and smooth muscle, botulinum toxin A (BTX-A) is internalized by presynaptic neurons after binding to an extracellular receptor (ganglioside and presumably synaptic vesicle protein 2C). In the neuronal cytosol, BTX-A disrupts fusion of the acetylcholine-containing vesicle with the neuronal wall by cleaving the SNAP-25 protein in the synaptic fusion complex. The net effect is selective paralysis of the low-grade contractions of the unstable detrusor, while still allowing high-grade contraction that initiates micturition. Additionally, BTX-A seems to have effects on afferent nerve activity by modulating the release of ATP in the urothelium, blocking the release of substance P, calcitonin gene-related peptide and glutamate from afferent nerves, and reducing levels of nerve growth factor. These effects on sensory feedback loops might not only help to explain the mechanism of BTX-A in relieving symptoms of overactive bladder, but also suggest a potential role for BTX-A in the relief of hyperalgesia associated with lower urinary tract disorders.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Botulinum Toxins, Type A / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Neuromuscular Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Urinary Bladder, Overactive / drug therapy*
  • Urinary Bladder, Overactive / physiopathology
  • Urinary Tract / drug effects*
  • Urinary Tract / physiopathology
  • Urodynamics / drug effects*


  • Neuromuscular Agents
  • Botulinum Toxins, Type A