The Expression of Inflammatory Mediators in Bladder Pain Syndrome

Ifeoma Offiah, Athanasios Didangelos, John Dawes, Rufus Cartwright, Vik Khullar, Elizabeth J. Bradbury, Suzanne O'Sullivan, Dic Williams, Iain P. Chessell, Kenny Pallas, Gerry Graham, Barry A. O’Reilly, Stephen B. McMahon

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Background Bladder pain syndrome (BPS) pathology is poorly understood. Treatment strategies are empirical, with limited efficacy, and affected patients have diminished quality of life. Objective We examined the hypothesis that inflammatory mediators within the bladder contribute to BPS pathology. Design, setting, and participants Fifteen women with BPS and 15 women with stress urinary incontinence without bladder pain were recruited from Cork University Maternity Hospital from October 2011 to October 2012. During cystoscopy, 5-mm bladder biopsies were taken and processed for gene expression analysis. The effect of the identified genes was tested in laboratory animals. Outcome measures and statistical analysis We studied the expression of 96 inflammation-related genes in diseased and healthy bladders. We measured the correlation between genes and patient clinical profiles using the Pearson correlation coefficient. Results and limitations Analysis revealed 15 differentially expressed genes, confirmed in a replication study. FGF7 and CCL21 correlated significantly with clinical outcomes. Intravesical CCL21 instillation in rats caused increased bladder excitability and increased c-fos activity in spinal cord neurons. CCL21 atypical receptor knockout mice showed significantly more c-fos upon bladder stimulation with CCL21 than wild-type littermates. There was no change in FGF7-treated animals. The variability in patient samples presented as the main limitation. We used principal component analysis to identify similarities within the patient group. Conclusions Our study identified two biologically relevant inflammatory mediators in BPS and demonstrated an increase in nociceptive signalling with CCL21. Manipulation of this ligand is a potential new therapeutic strategy for BPS. Patient summary We compared gene expression in bladder biopsies of patients with bladder pain syndrome (BPS) and controls without pain and identified two genes that were increased in BPS patients and correlated with clinical profiles. We tested the effect of these genes in laboratory animals, confirming their role in bladder pain. Manipulating these genes in BPS is a potential treatment strategy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-9
JournalEuropean Urology
Early online date7 Mar 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 Mar 2016


  • Animal model
  • Bladder pain syndrome
  • CCL21
  • Clinical correlation
  • FGF7
  • Gene expression analysis
  • Interstitial cystitis
  • Pain behaviour


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