Purpose: Ureteral dysfunction is a significant sequela of congenital bladder outlet obstruction. However, the structural and functional alterations associated with ureteral dysfunction are not well defined. A model of fetal bladder obstruction in sheep was used to characterize the changes in ureteral smooth muscle, extracellular matrix (ECM) and functional properties in response to bladder outlet obstruction. Materials and Methods: Partial bladder outlet obstruction was created in fetal sheep at gestational age 95 days via placement of a metal ring around the proximal urethra as well as ligation of the urachus. Ureters were harvested at 109 and 135 days (full term = 140 days) to determine the relative composition of smooth muscle, ECM and urothelium by morphometric analysis and to measure DNA and protein concentrations. Ureteral tissue from 135 day gestation obstructed and control sheep was harvested and immediately placed in Krebs solution. Smooth muscle strips (2-3 mm. x 7-8 mm.) were suspended in organ baths. The frequency and amplitude of spontaneous ureteral contractions was as well as the response to electric field stimulation (EFS) were determined. Results: Bladder outlet obstruction caused a significant increase in ureteral weight, smooth muscle mass and total ECM at both 109 and 135 days gestation. Total ureteral DNA was greater in obstructed compared with sham ureters at 135 days gestation. Obstructed ureters demonstrated greater amplitude and frequency of spontaneous contractions as well as more pronounced response to EFS when compared to sham ureters. Conclusions: The fetal ureter responds to bladder obstruction with smooth muscle hyperplasia and hypertrophy which is associated with increased spontaneous activity and augmented response to EFS. ECM content is markedly increased indicating a shift in the balance of connective tissue synthesis and degradation. Congenital post-obstructive ureteral dysfunction therefore appears to be the result of dysregulated smooth muscle cell growth and altered ECM homeostasis producing abnormal ureteral contractility.
- Congenital bladder obstruction
- Extracellular matrix
- Smooth muscle
ASJC Scopus subject areas