Background and purpose: Recent studies on blood vessels have provided evidence that testosterone may exert direct effects on smooth muscle. However, an acute effect on airway reactivity has not been shown yet. The aim of this study was to assess the direct effect of testosterone on the responsiveness of male adult rabbit airway smooth muscle (ASM), precontracted with 10 microM acetylcholine, 10microM carbachol or 80 mM KCl.
Experimental approach: Contractility studies of rabbit tracheal smooth muscle were performed.
Key results: Testosterone at concentrations of or above 1 nM had a significant relaxant effect on ASM precontracted with acetylcholine or carbachol, but did not affect ASM precontracted with KCl. The mechanical removal of airway epithelium as well as the inhibition of NO synthetase (by 100microM L-NAME) reduced the relaxation caused by testosterone. The effect of testosterone was not altered by impairing prostanoid synthesis (by 10microM indomethacin). The nitric oxide donor, sodium nitroprusside, had the same relaxant effect on ASM precontracted with either carbachol or KCl. Inhibitors of androgen receptors (10microM flutamide) or DNA transcription (100microM actinomycin D) did not alter the effect of testosterone. Prolonged incubation of ASM with 100 nM or 100 microM testosterone for 24 or 48 h did not alter their responsiveness to acetylcholine. BSA-testosterone (1pM to 100nM) relaxed significantly ASM precontracted with carbachol. The mechanical removal of airway epithelium abolished the relaxant effect of BSA-testosterone.
Conclusions and implications: Testosterone relaxes precontracted ASM via an epithelium and NO-mediated way. This effect is mediated via a non-genomic pathway.