Urethral obstruction produces increased voiding frequency (0.7 +/- 0.06 to 1.1 +/- 0.08 h-1) and hypertrophy of the urinary bladder (89 +/- 1.7 to 708 +/- 40 mg) with profound increments in the dimensions of afferent (4, 6) and efferent neurons (299 +/- 4.7 to 573 +/- 8.6 microns2) supplying this organ in the rat. We discovered that hypertrophied bladders of rat and human contain significantly more nerve growth factor (NGF) per milligram wet weight, protein, and DNA than normal bladders. The temporal correlation between NGF content, neuronal hypertrophy, and bladder weight was consistent with a role for this growth factor in the neurotrophic effects associated with obstruction. Autoimmunity to NGF abolished the hypertrophy of NGF-sensitive bladder neurons in the pelvic ganglion after obstruction. Relief of urethral obstruction reduced bladder size (349 +/- 78 mg), but neuronal hypertrophy (460.2 +/- 10.2 microns2) and elevated NGF levels were only partially reversed. Bladder hypertrophy (133 +/- 4.3 mg) induced by osmotic diuresis slightly increased ganglion cell area (365.2 +/- 6.1 microns2) and only doubled NGF content of the bladder. These findings provide important new evidence that parenchymal cells in the hypertrophied bladder can synthesize NGF and possibly other molecular messengers that act to alter the size and function of neurons in adult animals and man.
W D Steers, S Kolbeck, D Creedon, J B Tuttle