Effects of dimethyl sulphoxide and heparin on stretch-activated ATP release by bladder urothelial cells from patients with interstitial cystitis



Objective  To determine whether dimethyl sulphoxide (DMSO) and heparin reduce the greater stretch-activated ATP release in interstitial cystitis (IC), as ATP serves as a nocio-neurotransmitter in the bladder, and thus explain their beneficial effects in patients with IC (a disease characterized by hypersensory bladder symptoms).

Materials and methods  Bladder epithelia in IC release more ATP in response to stretch than do control samples. Both DMSO and heparin are used intravesically to treat IC; such agents can modulate urothelial function because they directly contact bladder urothelium. Biopsies taken from patients with IC and from control subjects were grown in primary cultures using established cell-culture techniques. Cultured urothelial cells were stretched with the Flexcell device (Flexcell International Corp., McKeesport, PA, USA) and supernatant ATP was measured, using a luciferin-luciferase assay. DMSO (0.1%, 0.5% and 1%) or heparin (50, 200, 800 and 1600 U) was added to the cells at the start of the stretch experiments and the ATP released into the supernatant measured. Cell viability was also determined using Trypan Blue staining.

Results  IC cells released significantly more ATP in response to stretch than did control cells. This increased release of ATP by stretched IC cells was significantly blocked by adding DMSO or heparin at all concentrations used. Heparin appeared to have a greater dose-dependent effect on ATP release than did DMSO.

Conclusions  These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that the urothelium provides sensory input via ATP release and that this process is increased in IC. Furthermore, stretch-activated ATP release was blocked by adding DMSO and heparin, both intravesical agents commonly used to treat the symptoms of IC. This study supports the notion that purinergic-targeted therapy is warranted in treating IC. Further studies are needed to determine the mechanisms of increased ATP release by IC urothelial cells.