Androgenic maintenance of the erectile response in the rat

Steroids. 1999 Sep;64(9):605-9. doi: 10.1016/s0039-128x(99)00040-9.


Ongoing studies in this laboratory have used the castrated rat, with and without testosterone replacement, to investigate how androgens maintain the erectile response. The high intracavernosal pressures during erection depend on both an increase in the rate at which blood flows into the sinuses of the corpus cavernosum and a decrease in the rate at which blood flows out (veno-occlusion). Accordingly, our studies investigated androgenic regulation of the arterioles that regulate inflow and of the intracavernosal muscle that regulates the veno-occlusive mechanism controlling outflow. The results of these studies show that castration causes a decline in the rate of inflow and that androgen replacement reverses this decline. The decline in inflow in the castrated rats is also reversed by the administration of a nitric oxide donor drug, suggesting that the androgen may regulate inflow by increasing the synthesis of nitric oxide. Testosterone also appears to regulate outflow by controlling the sensitivity of the erectile mechanisms to norepinephrine, considered to be the principle vaso-constrictor neurotransmitter in the erectile response. Taken together, the results of these studies suggest that androgens control the erectile response by altering the synthesis and action of the neurotransmitters that normally alter the state of contraction and relaxation of smooth muscle in the erectile tissue.

MeSH terms

  • Androgens / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Male
  • Nitric Oxide / biosynthesis
  • Nitric Oxide / physiology
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / metabolism
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type I
  • Orchiectomy
  • Penile Erection / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Regional Blood Flow / physiology


  • Androgens
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type I
  • Nos1 protein, rat