An experimental study was conducted to investigate developmental changes of the rat detrusor smooth muscle (DSM) reactivity from newborn to adult period. Urinary bladders were obtained from adult (4 months old), 1-month-old and newborn (4-7 days old) male Sprague-Dawley rats. DSM reactivity of the three groups was evaluated in organ chambers. The newborn DSM strips revealed markedly increased purinoceptor- and cholinoceptor-mediated contractions (ATP, carbachol) with increased maximum response (2.98- and 8.96-fold increase for ATP, 2.90- and 4.22-fold increase for carbachol, when the newborn bladder compared with I-month-old and adult groups, respectively) and sensitivity (1.65- and 1.29-fold increase for ATP when the newborn bladder compared with the 1-month-old and adult groups, respectively). Additionally the maximum contractile response to KCI in the bladder from the newborn was 1.65- and 8.96-fold increased compared to bladders of the 1-month-old and adult groups, respectively. However, no significant changes in the adrenoceptor-mediated relaxation (isoproterenol) of the rat DSM were observed among the groups. These results indicate that development alters the in vitro responsiveness of rat DSM. The newborn rat bladder gains some of the adult bladder properties within 1 month. These changes are likely to reflect the changing role of parasympathetic regulation in the DSM reactivity during development of the rat bladder. (C) 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.