To evaluate the regulation of connexin expression by fluid pressure, we have studied the effects of elevated transmural urine pressure on Connexin43 (Cx43) and Cx26. We chose to focus on these two proteins out of the five connexins (Cx26, 43, 40, 37, and 45) which we found by RT-PCR to be expressed in the rat bladder, since in situ hybridization and immunofluorescence showed that Cx43 is the predominant connexin expressed by smooth muscle cells (SMC), whereas Cx26 is abundantly expressed only in the latter cell type. To evaluate whether these connexins are affected by changes in transmural urine pressure, we used a rat model of bladder outlet obstruction, in which a ligature is placed around the urethra. Under conditions of increased fluid pressure due to urine retention, we observed that the expression of both Cx43 and Cx26 increased at both transcript and protein levels, reaching a maximum 7-9 h after the ligature. Further analysis revealed that these changes were accounted for by a fourfold increase in Cx43 mRNA of SMC but not urothelial cell and by a fivefold increase in Cx26 mRNA of urothelium. Scrape-loading of propidium iodide showed that the latter change was paralleled by a twofold increase in coupling between urothelial cells. The data show that Cx43 and Cx26 are differentially regulated during bladder outlet obstruction and contribute to the response of the bladder wall to increased voiding pressure, possibly to control its elasticity.