Blockade of phosphodiesterase Type 5 enhances rat neurohypophysial excitability and electrically evoked oxytocin release

J Physiol. 2007 Oct 1;584(Pt 1):137-47. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2007.139303. Epub 2007 Aug 9.


Phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) acts specifically on cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) and terminates cGMP-mediated signalling. PDE5 has a well established role in vascular smooth muscle, where specific inhibitors of PDE5 such as sildenafil correct erectile dysfunction by augmenting cGMP-mediated vascular relaxation. However, the role of PDE5 outside of the vasculature has received little attention. The present study tested PDE5 inhibitors on the cGMP-mediated modulation of K(+) channels in the neurohypophysis (posterior pituitary). Photolysis of caged-cGMP enhanced current through Ca(2+)-activated K(+) channels, and this enhancement recovered in about 2 min. Sildenafil essentially eliminated this recovery, suggesting that the reversal of K(+) current enhancement depends on cGMP breakdown. Activation of nitric oxide synthase during trains of activity in pituitary nerve terminals enhances excitability. When trains of stimulation were applied at regular intervals, sildenafil enhanced the excitability of neurohypophysial nerve terminals and increased the action potential firing probability. T-1032, a compound with high specificity for PDE5 over PDE6, had a similar action. Voltage imaging in intact neurohypophysis with a voltage sensitive absorbance dye showed that T-1032 reduced the failure of propagating action potentials during trains of activity. This indicates that PDE5 activity limits action potential propagation in neurohypophysial axons. Immunoassay of oxytocin, a neuropeptide hormone secreted by the posterior pituitary, demonstrated that sildenafil increased electrically evoked release. Thus, PDE5 plays an important role in the regulation of neurohypophysial function, and blockade of this enzyme can enhance the use-dependent facilitation of neurohypophysial secretion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / drug effects
  • Animals
  • Cyclic Nucleotide Phosphodiesterases, Type 5 / metabolism*
  • Electric Stimulation
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Male
  • Oxytocin / metabolism*
  • Phosphodiesterase 5 Inhibitors
  • Piperazines / pharmacology
  • Pituitary Gland, Posterior / enzymology
  • Pituitary Gland, Posterior / metabolism*
  • Potassium Channels / metabolism
  • Presynaptic Terminals / metabolism*
  • Purines / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Sildenafil Citrate
  • Sulfones / pharmacology


  • Phosphodiesterase 5 Inhibitors
  • Piperazines
  • Potassium Channels
  • Purines
  • Sulfones
  • Oxytocin
  • Sildenafil Citrate
  • Cyclic Nucleotide Phosphodiesterases, Type 5