Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology

Cross-organ interactions between reproductive, gastrointestinal, and urinary tracts: modulation by estrous stage and involvement of the hypogastric nerve

Kenneth P. Winnard, Natalia Dmitrieva, Karen J. Berkley


Central nervous system neurons process information converging from the uterus, colon, and bladder, partly via the hypogastric nerve. This processing is influenced by the estrous cycle, suggesting the existence of an estrous-modifiable central nervous system substrate by which input from one pelvic organ can influence functioning of other pelvic organs. Here, we tested predictions from this hypothesis that acute inflammation of colon, uterine horn, or bladder would produce signs of inflammation in the other uninflamed organs (increase vascular permeability) and that cross-organ effects would vary with estrous and be eliminated by hypogastric neurectomy (HYPX). Under urethane anesthesia, the colon, uterine horn, or bladder of rats in proestrus or metestrus, with or without prior HYPX, was treated with mustard oil or saline. Two hours later, Evans Blue dye extravasation was measured to assess vascular permeability. Extravasation was increased in all inflamed organs, regardless of estrous stage. For rats in proestrus, but not metestrus, either colon or uterine horn inflammation significantly increased extravasation in the uninflamed bladder. Much smaller cross-organ effects were seen in colon and uterine horn. HYPX reduced extravasation in the inflamed colon and inflamed uterine horn, but not the inflamed bladder. HYPX eliminated the colon-to-bladder and uterine horn-to-bladder effects. These results demonstrate that inflaming one pelvic organ can produce estrous-modifiable signs of inflammation in other pelvic organs, particularly bladder, and suggest that the cross-organ effects involve the hypogastric nerve and are at least partly centrally mediated. Such effects could contribute to cooccurrence and cyclicity of distressing pelvic disorders in women.

  • pelvic pain
  • inflammation
  • interstitial cystitis
  • uterus
  • colon
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