Central Control Circuit for Context-Dependent Micturition

Cell. 2016 Sep 22;167(1):73-86.e12. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2016.08.073.


Urine release (micturition) serves an essential physiological function as well as a critical role in social communication in many animals. Here, we show a combined effect of olfaction and social hierarchy on micturition patterns in adult male mice, confirming the existence of a micturition control center that integrates pro- and anti-micturition cues. Furthermore, we demonstrate that a cluster of neurons expressing corticotropin-releasing hormone (Crh) in the pontine micturition center (PMC) is electrophysiologically distinct from their Crh-negative neighbors and sends glutamatergic projections to the spinal cord. The activity of PMC Crh-expressing neurons correlates with and is sufficient to drive bladder contraction, and when silenced impairs micturition behavior. These neurons receive convergent input from widespread higher brain areas that are capable of carrying diverse pro- and anti-micturition signals, and whose activity modulates hierarchy-dependent micturition. Taken together, our results indicate that PMC Crh-expressing neurons are likely the integration center for context-dependent micturition behavior.

Keywords: Barrington's nucleus; bladder; corticotropin-releasing hormone; medial pre-optic area; micturition; pons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Glutamic Acid / physiology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Pons / cytology
  • Pons / physiology*
  • Smell
  • Spinal Cord / cytology
  • Spinal Cord / physiology
  • Urinary Bladder / innervation
  • Urinary Bladder / physiology*
  • Urination / physiology*


  • Glutamic Acid
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone