In ureter peristalsis, the orientation of the contracting smooth muscle cells is essential, yet current descriptions of orientation and composition of the smooth muscle layer in human as well as in rat ureter are inconsistent. The present study aims to improve quantification of smooth muscle orientation in rat ureters as a basis for mechanistic understanding of peristalsis. A crucial step in our approach is to use two-photon laser scanning microscopy and image analysis providing objective, quantitative data on smooth muscle cell orientation in intact ureters, avoiding the usual sectioning artifacts. In 36 rat ureter segments, originating from a proximal, middle or distal site and from a left or right ureter, we found close to the adventitia a well-defined longitudinal smooth muscle orientation. Towards the lamina propria, the orientation gradually became slightly more disperse, yet the main orientation remained longitudinal. We conclude that smooth muscle cell orientation in rat ureter is predominantly longitudinal, though the orientation gradually becomes more disperse towards the proprial side. These findings do not support identification of separate layers. The observed longitudinal orientation suggests that smooth muscle contraction would rather cause local shortening of the ureter, than cause luminal constriction. However, the net-like connective tissue of the ureter wall may translate local longitudinal shortening into co-local luminal constriction, facilitating peristalsis. Our quantitative, minimally invasive approach is a crucial step towards more mechanistic insight into ureter peristalsis, and may also be used to study smooth muscle cell orientation in other tube-like structures like gut and blood vessels.
- 2-PHOTON MICROSCOPY