AIMS: To explore the ultrastructure of interstitial cells in the upper lamina propria of the human bladder, to describe the spatial relationships and to investigate cell-cell contacts. METHODS: Focused ion beam scanning electron microscopy (FIB-SEM), 3-View SEM and confocal laser scanning microscopy were used to analyze the 3D ultrastructure of the upper lamina propria in male and female human bladders. RESULTS: 3View-SEM image stacks as large as 59 x 59 x 17 mum3 (xyz) at a resolution of 16 x 16 x 50 nm3 and high resolution (5 x 5 x 10 nm3 ) FIB-SEM stacks could be analyzed. Interstitial cells with myoid differentiation (mIC) and fibroblast like interstitial cells (fIC) were the major cell types in the upper lamina propria. The flat, sheet-like ICs were oriented strictly parallel to the urothelium. No spindle shaped cells were present. We furthermore identified one branched cell (bIC) with several processes contacting urothelial cells by penetrating the basal membrane. This cell did not make any contacts to other ICs within the upper lamina propria. We found no evidence for the occurrence of telocytes in the upper lamina propria. CONCLUSIONS: Comprehensive 3D-ultrastructural analysis of the human bladder confirmed distinct subtypes of interstitial cells. We provide evidence for a foremost unknown direct connection between a branched interstitial cell and urothelial cells of which the functional role has still to be elucidated. 3D-ultrastructure analyses at high resolution are needed to further define the subpopulations of lamina propria cells and cell-cell interactions.