Nitric oxide (NO) is known to relax urethral smooth muscle. The role of NO in the control of urethral striated muscle remains unknown. We have investigated the distribution of nitric oxide synthase (NOS) immunoreactivity and its possible relationship with subtypes of intramural striated muscle fibers in the human male membranous urethra.Materials and Methods
Whole transverse cryostat sections from seven membranous urethrae were studied using NOS immunohistochemistry and NADPH diaphorase histochemistry. Striated fiber subtypes were demonstrated using immunohistochemistry for troponin T and histochemistry for myofibrillary adenosine triphosphatase (ATPase). Consecutive sections were used to assess the correlation between the distribution of NOS immunoreactivity and the type of striated fibers.Results
NOS immunoreactivity and NADPH diaphorase activity were detected in the sarcolemma of 48.5% of the intramural striated muscle fibers. NOS immunoreactive nerve trunks and fine nerve fibers, a few of which appeared to end on muscle fibers, were present in the striated sphincter. Fast twitch fibers were detected by ATPase staining, and also exhibited positive immunoreactivity for troponin T, constituting 34.6% of the total number of striated fibers. Two populations of slow twitch fibers were identified; one with small diameter (mean: 15.7 micro m.) and another of larger diameter (mean: 21.7 micro m.) comparable to that of fast twitch fibers. 86% of the fast twitch fibers and 29% of slow twitch fibers (most of which had larger diameters) exhibited NOS immunoreactivity and NADPH diaphorase activity in the sarcolemma.Conclusions
The presence of nitrergic nerve fibers in the striated urethral sphincter suggests an involvement in the innervation of urethral striated muscle. Furthermore, the presence of NOS immunoreactivity in the sarcolemma may indicate a role for NO in the regulation of urethral striated muscle metabolism and contraction.