Introduction: COMP-4 is a natural compound-based dietary supplement consisting of the combination of ginger, Paullinia cupana, muira puama and l-citrulline, which when given long-term has been shown in the aged rat to a) upregulate iNOS in the penile smooth muscle cells (SMC), b) reverse the corporal SMC apoptosis and fibrosis associated with corporal veno-occlusive dysfunction (CVOD), and c) improve resulting erectile function. To elucidate the mechanism of how COMP-4 and its individual components modulate the iNOS-cGMP pathway, an in vitro study was conducted using a rat corporal primary SMC culture to determine its effect on NOS, soluble guanylate cyclase (sGC), cGMP and the phosphodiesterase 5 enzyme (PDE5).
Materials and methods: Primary SMC cultures using the explant technique were initiated by cutting small pieces of corporal tissue from 8 week old Sprague-Dawley rats. The SMC were grown in Dulbecco media with 20% fetal calf serum. The SMC were then incubated with or without COMP-4 (0.69 mg/ml) or its ingredients alone (ginger: 0.225 mg/ml; muira puama, Paullinia cupana and l-citrulline each at 0.9 mg/ml) for up to 24 h mRNA and protein were extracted and used for the determination of NOS, sGC and PDE5 content. cGMP content was determined by ELISA. L-NIL (4 μM) was used as an inhibitor of iNOS activity.
Results: Compared to the control values, COMP-4 upregulated expression of cGMP by 85%, induced a 42 fold increase in sGC as well as a 15 fold increase in both iNOS protein and mRNA content while it decreased both PDE5 mRNA and protein content each by about 50%. L-NIL completely inhibited the effect of COMP-4 on cGMP production. When compared with each of the individual four components of COMP-4, it appears that COMP-4 itself had the most profound effect in modulating each one the specific steps within the iNOS-cGMP pathway.
Conclusions: This in vitro study demonstrates that COMP-4 is capable of activating the endogenous cellular iNOS-cGMP pathway within the CSM cells, which is theorized to be responsible for reducing the fibrosis and apoptosis as well as the CVOD observed in the aging rat penis. Further studies will be necessary in order to determine whether supplementation of COMP-4 on a daily basis may be beneficial in halting or reversing this aging related erectile dysfunction in the clinical setting.
Keywords: PDE 5 cavernosal smooth muscle cells; cGMP; iNOS.
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