Activation of MrgprA3 and MrgprC11 on bladder-innervating afferents induces peripheral and central hypersensitivity to bladder distension

Luke Grundy, Ashlee Caldwell, Sonia Garcia-Caraballo, David Grundy, Nick J. Spencer, Xinzhong Dong, Joel Castro, Andrea M. Harrington, Stuart M. Brierley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Understanding the sensory mechanisms innervating the bladder is paramount to developing efficacious treatments for chronic bladder hypersensitivity conditions. The contribution of Mas-gene-related G protein-coupled receptors (Mrgpr) to bladder signaling is currently unknown. Using male and female mice, we show with single-cell RT-PCR that subpopulations of DRG neurons innervating the mouse bladder express MrgprA3 (14%) and MrgprC11 (38%), either individually or in combination, with high levels of coexpression with Trpv1 (81%-89%). Calcium imaging studies demonstrated MrgprA3 and MrgprC11 agonists (chloroquine, BAM8-22, and neuropeptide FF) activated subpopulations of bladder-innervating DRG neurons, showing functional evidence of coexpression between MrgprA3, MrgprC11, and TRPV1. In ex vivo bladder-nerve preparations, chloroquine, BAM8-22, and neuropeptide FF all evoked mechanical hypersensitivity in subpopulations (20%-41%) of bladder afferents. These effects were absent in recordings from Mrgpr-clusterD2/2 mice. In vitro whole-cell patch-clamp recordings showed that application of an MrgprA3/C11 agonist mixture induced neuronal hyperexcitability in 44% of bladder-innervating DRG neurons. Finally, in vivo instillation of an MrgprA3/C11 agonist mixture into the bladder of WT mice induced a significant activation of dorsal horn neurons within the lumbosacral spinal cord, as quantified by pERK immunoreactivity. This MrgprA3/C11 agonist-induced activation was particularly apparent within the superficial dorsal horn and the sacral parasympathetic nuclei of WT, but not Mrgpr-clusterD2/2 mice. This study demonstrates, for the first time, functional expression of MrgprA3 and MrgprC11 in bladder afferents. Activation of these receptors triggers hypersensitivity to distension, a critically valuable factor for therapeutic target development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3900-3916
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number17
StatePublished - Apr 28 2021


  • Bladder
  • GPCR
  • Itch
  • Pain
  • Sensory neurons
  • Visceral afferents

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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