Hypercholesterolemia impairs endothelium-dependent relaxation of rabbit corpus cavernosum smooth muscle

J Urol. 1991 Jul;146(1):238-40. doi: 10.1016/s0022-5347(17)37759-5.


The majority of cases of impotence are associated with vascular risk factors such as diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, hypertension and smoking. These factors induce impairment of endothelium-dependent relaxation of blood vessels in man and in experimental animals. In this study the effects of hypercholesterolemia on the reactivity of rabbit corpus cavernosum smooth muscle strips to endothelium-dependent and endothelium-independent agents were investigated. New Zealand White rabbits (n = 14) were randomly divided into control and treatment groups. The control group (n = 7) received a regular diet while the treatment group (n = 7) was fed a diet of 0.5% cholesterol and 4% peanut oil for 10 weeks. Animals were then sacrificed and the corporal tissue studied in organ chambers for isometric tension measurement. Tissue was contracted with phenylephrine and concentration-dependent relaxation to acetylcholine, in the presence and absence of indomethacin, and to nitroprusside were examined. Blood level of cholesterol in the cholesterol-fed group was significantly higher compared to the control group. Contractions to phenylephrine were similar in both groups. Hypercholesterolemia, however, inhibited relaxation to acetylcholine but did not alter relaxation to nitroprusside, a cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP)-dependent, direct smooth muscle dilator. Indomethacin enhanced the relaxations to acetylcholine in both control and cholesterol-fed groups but did not correct the difference in the relaxation to acetylcholine between both groups. It is concluded that hypercholesterolemia impairs endothelium-mediated relaxation of rabbit corpus cavernosum smooth muscle. The mechanism for the endothelial dysfunction does not appear to involve alteration in cyclooxygenase products of arachidonate or the cGMP-dependent relaxation of corporal smooth muscle. Impairment of endothelium-dependent relaxation of corporal smooth muscle may contribute to the pathophysiology of impotence associated with hypercholesterolemia in man.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Cholesterol, Dietary / administration & dosage
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Endothelium / drug effects
  • Endothelium / physiopathology
  • Hypercholesterolemia / physiopathology*
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Indomethacin / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Muscle Relaxation / drug effects
  • Muscle Relaxation / physiology*
  • Muscle, Smooth / drug effects
  • Muscle, Smooth / physiopathology*
  • Nitroprusside / pharmacology
  • Penis / drug effects
  • Penis / physiopathology
  • Phenylephrine / pharmacology
  • Rabbits


  • Cholesterol, Dietary
  • Nitroprusside
  • Phenylephrine
  • Acetylcholine
  • Indomethacin