Neural and endothelial nitric oxide synthase activity in rat penile erectile tissue

Cell Tissue Res. 1995 Oct;282(1):109-16. doi: 10.1007/BF00319137.


NADPH-diaphorase (NADPH-D) activity and immunoreactivity for neural and endothelial nitric oxide synthase (nNOS and eNOS, respectively) were used to investigate nitric oxide (NO) regulation of penile vasculature. Both the histochemical and immunohistochemical techniques for NOS showed that all smooth muscles regions of the penis (dorsal penile artery and vein, deep penile vessels, and cavernosal muscles) were richly innervated. The endothelium of penile arteries, deep dorsal penile vein, and select veins in the crura and shaft were also stained for NADPH-D and eNOS. However, the endothelium of cavernous sinuses was unstained by both techniques. Fewer fibers were seen in the glans penis, those present being associated with small blood vessels and large nerve bundles near the trabecular walls. All penile neurons in the pelvic plexus, located by retrograde transport of a dye placed in the corpora cavernosa penis, were stained by the NADPH-D method. Essentially similar results were obtained with an antibody to nNOS. These data suggest that penile parasympathetic neurons comprise a uniform population, as all seem capable of forming nitric oxide. However, in contrast to the endothelium of penile vessels, the endothelium lining the cavernosal spaces may not be capable of nitric oxide synthesis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Endothelium, Vascular / enzymology*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • NADPH Dehydrogenase / analysis*
  • Nerve Fibers / enzymology*
  • Neurons / enzymology*
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / analysis*
  • Penis / enzymology*
  • Penis / innervation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Nitric Oxide Synthase
  • NADPH Dehydrogenase