Testosterone decreases urinary bladder smooth muscle excitability via novel signaling mechanism involving direct activation of the BK channels

Am J Physiol Renal Physiol. 2016 Dec 1;311(6):F1253-F1259. doi: 10.1152/ajprenal.00238.2016. Epub 2016 Sep 7.


In addition to improving sexual function, testosterone has been reported to have beneficial effects in ameliorating lower urinary tract symptoms by increasing bladder capacity and compliance, while decreasing bladder pressure. However, the cellular mechanisms by which testosterone regulates detrusor smooth muscle (DSM) excitability have not been elucidated. Here, we used amphotericin-B perforated whole cell patch-clamp and single channel recordings on inside-out excised membrane patches to investigate the regulatory role of testosterone in guinea pig DSM excitability. Testosterone (100 nM) significantly increased the depolarization-induced whole cell outward currents in DSM cells. The selective pharmacological inhibition of the large-conductance voltage- and Ca2+-activated K+ (BK) channels with paxilline (1 μM) completely abolished this stimulatory effect of testosterone, suggesting a mechanism involving BK channels. At a holding potential of -20 mV, DSM cells exhibited transient BK currents (TBKCs). Testosterone (100 nM) significantly increased TBKC activity in DSM cells. In current-clamp mode, testosterone (100 nM) significantly hyperpolarized the DSM cell resting membrane potential and increased spontaneous transient hyperpolarizations. Testosterone (100 nM) rapidly increased the single BK channel open probability in inside-out excised membrane patches from DSM cells, clearly suggesting a direct BK channel activation via a nongenomic mechanism. Live-cell Ca2+ imaging showed that testosterone (100 nM) caused a decrease in global intracellular Ca2+ concentration, consistent with testosterone-induced membrane hyperpolarization. In conclusion, the data provide compelling mechanistic evidence that under physiological conditions, testosterone at nanomolar concentrations directly activates BK channels in DSM cells, independent from genomic testosterone receptors, and thus regulates DSM excitability.

Keywords: lower urinary tract symptoms; overactive bladder; testosterone.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Large-Conductance Calcium-Activated Potassium Channels / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Membrane Potentials / drug effects*
  • Muscle Contraction / drug effects
  • Muscle, Smooth / drug effects
  • Muscle, Smooth / metabolism
  • Myocytes, Smooth Muscle / drug effects*
  • Myocytes, Smooth Muscle / metabolism
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects*
  • Testosterone / pharmacology*
  • Urinary Bladder / drug effects*
  • Urinary Bladder / metabolism


  • Large-Conductance Calcium-Activated Potassium Channels
  • Testosterone
  • Calcium