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Distribution and changes with age of nitric oxide synthase-immunoreactive nerves of the rat urinary bladder, ureter and in lumbosacral sensory neurons

By H. Mohammed and Robert Murray Santer


In the distal parts of the urinary tract, nerves containing nitric oxide (NO) are either postganglionic parasympathetic nerves, with cell bodies in the major pelvic ganglia, or sensory nerves with cell bodies in the lumbosacral dorsal root ganglia. We have used indirect immunohistochemical techniques to examine the distribution and regional variation of nerves immunoreactive for neuronal nitric oxide synthase (NOS) in the urinary bladder, distal ureter and in neurons in lumbosacral dorsal root ganglia (L1-L2 & L6-S1) of young adult (3 months) and aged (24 months) male rats. Semi-quantitative estimations of nerve densities were made of NOS fibres innervating the dome, body and base of the urinary bladder and distal ureter. Quantitative studies were also used to examine the effects of age on the percentage of dorsal root ganglion neurons immunoreactive for NOS. The dome and the body regions, in both age groups, contained no NOS-immunoreactive axons. The bladder base and distal ureter in young adults showed sparse to moderate numbers of fibres immunoreactive to NOS within the urothelium and in the subepithelium and muscle coat. In the aged rat there were slight reductions in the densities of NOS-immunoreactive nerves in all three regions. In the lumbosacral dorsal root ganglia, the percentage of NOS-immunoreactive neuronal profiles showed a significant reduction from 4.6 +/- 0.2% in young adult to 2.7 +/- 0.2% (means +/- S.E.M) in aged rats. These findings suggest that the effects of NO on the bladder and distal ureteric musculature and also its expression in dorsal root ganglion neurons are affected in aged rats and that the micturition reflex may be perturbed as a result

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