Intraurethral capsaicin produces reflex activation of the striated urethral sphincter in urethane-anesthetized male rats

J Urol. 1993 Oct;150(4):1271-7. doi: 10.1016/s0022-5347(17)35759-2.


The effect of intraurethral application of capsaicin on the urethral motility of urethane anesthetized rats has been investigated. The urinary bladder and the urethra were surgically disconnected, and both organs were cannulated to record variations in intraluminal pressure (cystourethrogram). Urinary bladder reflex contractions in response to intravesical infusion of saline were paralleled by activation of the external striated urethral sphincter, resulting in intraluminal pressure high frequency oscillations (IPHFO) which were recorded at the urethral level. Intraurethral capsaicin (0.2 microgram./30 microliters.), produced an immediate enhancement of the IPHFO, the amplitude of which (70 +/- 9 mm.Hg) was significantly (p < 0.01) higher as compared with that recorded before drug administration (15 +/- 3 mm.Hg). The potentiation was followed (11 of 15 rats) by a period (5 to 12 minutes) characterized by a continuous low-amplitude urethral phasic activity. Throughout this period urinary bladder motility was inhibited. A second administration of capsaicin in the same animal was ineffective, and the response was absent in rats desensitized to capsaicin (50 mg./kg., subcutaneously, 4 days before), after application of tetrodotoxin (10 micrograms.) on the pudendal nerves, or after acute (3 hours before) sectioning, as well as in rats pretreated with d-tubocurarine (d-Tc, 100 micrograms./kg. intravenously). Intraurethral injection of capsaicin (0.2 microgram./30 microliters.), performed when the urinary bladder was empty, triggered IPHFO (12 +/- 3 mm.Hg) in 5 of 6 rats. This response was unaffected by hexamethonium (20 mg./kg., intravenously) or after removal (6 hours before) of the major pelvic ganglia, while it was absent after destruction of the lumbosacral spinal cord (3 to 6 hours before), in rats acutely spinalized (T13-L1), or after sectioning of the pudendal nerves. In rats receiving intrathecal (L5-S1) capsaicin (60 micrograms., 24 hours before), the capsaicin-induced IPHFO activation was lacking. Electrical field stimulation (EFS, 0.1 Hz, 30 microseconds, 20 to 30 v) of the rat isolated external urethral sphincter (EUS), elicited d-tubocurarine and tetrodotoxin-sensitive twitch contractions, the amplitude of which was unaffected by capsaicin (1 microM.). Altogether these results suggest a physiological interaction between capsaicin-sensitive primary afferents innervating the urethra and the somatic efferent innervation to the urethral rabdosphincter. Present findings suggest the existence of a chemonociceptive urethro-urethral neural loop which, via pudendal nerves, leads to a supraspinally-mediated activation of the external urethral sphincter.

MeSH terms

  • Afferent Pathways / physiology
  • Animals
  • Capsaicin / pharmacology*
  • Efferent Pathways / physiology
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Male
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Muscle, Smooth / physiology*
  • Peripheral Nerves / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Reflex / drug effects
  • Reflex / physiology*
  • Stimulation, Chemical
  • Urethane
  • Urethra / drug effects*
  • Urethra / innervation
  • Urinary Bladder / innervation*
  • Urination / physiology*


  • Urethane
  • Capsaicin