1. Experiments were done to determine the influence of gender and the oestrous cycle on rat urinary bladder contractility in response to cholinergic stimulation. 2. Bladder strips from female rats responded to high frequency stimulation with smaller contractile responses than did strips from males, and to low concentrations of carbachol with greater responses. The decreased responsiveness of bladder strips from female rats to electrical field stimulation can be primarily attributed to the rats in the oestrous stage of the oestrous cycle. 3. Bladder strips from female rats in all stages of the oestrous cycle were more sensitive to carbachol than those from males, but there were no differences in sensitivity to electrical field stimulation. 4. The contractile responses of strips from both male and female rats to carbachol were antagonized by muscarinic antagonists with the following rank order of affinity (pA(2)) estimates: 4-DAMP>>pirenzepine>methoctramine, suggesting that the receptor mediating contraction was the M3 subtype. There were no differences in pA(2) values between bladder strips from male and female rats. 5. The data indicate that responsiveness of bladder strips to electrical field stimulation and carbachol is altered in female rats in the oestrous stage of the oestrous cycle. Furthermore, gender influences the sensitivity of rat bladder to muscarinic stimulation.
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