Immunohistochemical and ultrastructural study of rhabdosphincter component of the prostatic capsule

Ahmad Elbadawi, Ranjiv Mathews, J. Keith Light, Thomas M. Wheeler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Purpose: There has been no complete agreement on functional anatomy of muscular components of the urethral sphincteric mechanism, particularly in the male patient. The prostatic capsule was studied to define its histological structure and to determine whether its rhabdosphincter component (prostatocapsular rhabdosphincter) consists only of slow twitch or slow and fast twitch striated myofibers. Materials and Methods: We studied 11 whole prostates, including 1 obtained at autopsy and 10 by radical prostatectomy. Samples of prostatic capsule from 4 operative specimens were studied by electron microscopy. Whole mount paraffin sections from transverse slices of the remaining 7 prostates were double labeled with avidin biotin conjugate immunostaining using the primary monoclonal antibodies anti-α smooth muscle actin plus anti-α sarcomeric actin (all striated myofibers) or antiskeletal myosin fast (fast myofibers only). Tissue components of the prostatic capsule, including smooth muscle and slow versus fast twitch striated myofibers, were quantified by computerized image analysis. Results: The prostatic capsule consisted of collagen, smooth muscle and striated myofibers. It varied in thickness and proportion of the 3 components among specimens, and in each in relation to transverse circumferential aspect and craniocaudal (horizontal) level of the prostate. Collagen and smooth muscle were equally important components. Striated muscle elements within the capsule consisted of fast twitch and dominant slow twitch myofibers, and were much more abundant in the caudal (distal, lower) than the cranial (proximal, upper) half of the capsule, where they were deficient ventrally (anteriorly) and dorsally (posteriorly). The prostatocapsular rhabdosphincter thus had a butterfly- like appearance, with a thick posteriorly open ring at the apex and 2 thinner, divergent leaflets tapering toward the base at the bladder neck. The fast myofiber population decreased progressively from apex to base of prostate. Conclusions: Proof is provided for mixed slow and fast twitch myofiber structure of the prostatocapsular component of human male rhabdosphincter. Sustained (tonic) contraction of slow myofibers probably reinforces the role of urethral smooth muscle in maintaining continence during bladder filling. Swift contraction of fast myofibers that abound caudally in the capsule probably supplements urethral closure by the bulkier membranous urethral part of the rhabdosphincter in preventing leakage of urine under stress when voiding is imminent or willfully withheld.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1819-1828
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Urology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Image analysis
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Ultrastructure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Urology


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