Purpose: Bladder pain syndrome/interstitial cystitis (BPS/IC) is associated with urothelial lesions. Pathomechanisms of urothelial damage and factors for urothelial restoration are unknown. hCG is a factor for cellular differentiation, angiogenesis and immune competence of the endometrium during pregnancy. Clinical observations demonstrate improvement of BPS/IC symptoms during pregnancy or during infertility treatment with hCG. Our research aims were to examine the expression of hCG and luteinizing hormone receptor (LHR) in the urothelium of BPS/IC patients and compare the levels of hCGβ with healthy controls.
Methods: Bladder biopsies of BPS/IC (CLSM: n = 10; qPCR: n = 15); Tumour-free control tissue from cystectomies (n = 12). hCGα, hCGβ and LHR expression were examined by confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM), and hCGβ expression was quantified. hCGβ5 and hCGβ7 mRNA splice variants were quantified in real-time polymerase chain reaction.
Results: We found constitutive expression of hCGα, hCGβ and LHR in healthy controls. HCGβ was significantly upregulated in BPS/IC patients in CLSM. PCR analysis revealed higher levels of hCGβ7 than hCGβ5 in controls and BPS/IC patients.
Conclusions: The constitutive expression of hCG and LHR speaks in favour for a functional signalling in urothelial cells without any association with either pregnancy or tumour. We show for the first time that hCGβ is upregulated in BPS/IC urothelium and that hCGβ7 is the dominant splice variant in those cells. Our findings imply a major role of hCG for urothelial integrity and a disturbance of hCG signalling in case of BPS/IC. We conclude that hCG could gain therapeutical relevance in the future.