Oxytocin-induced penile erection. Role of nitric oxide

Adv Exp Med Biol. 1995:395:247-54.


In order to investigate the mechanism of action by which oxytocin induces penile erection, the effect of NG-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester (NAME) and NG-monomethyl-L-arginine (NMMA), inhibitors of nitric oxide (NO) synthase, injected into the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus (PVN) on the response to oxytocin injected into the PVN was studied in male rats. NAME and NMMA, but not NG-mono-methyl-D-arginine (D-NMMA), which does not inhibit NO-synthase, prevented in a dose-dependent manner the response to oxytocin. NAME was 4-5 times more potent than NMMA. NAME prevention of the oxytocin effect was not observed when NAME was given together with L-arginine but not with D-arginine. Oxytocin-induced penile erection was prevented by the oxytocin antagonist d(CH2)5Tyr(Me)-Orn8-vasotocin and by methylene blue, an inhibitor of guanylate cyclase, but not reduced hemoglobin, a NO scavenger, given intracerebroventricularly (i.c.v.). In contrast, both methylene blue and hemoglobin were ineffective when injected into the PVN, unlike d(CH2)5Tyr(Me)-Orn8-vasotocin. Penile erection was induced also by sodium nitroprusside and hydroxylamine, two NO donors, injected into the PVN. Like the oxytocin effect, the NO donor response was prevented by i.c.v. d(CH2)5Tyr(Me)-Orn8-vasotocin and methylene blue, but not hemoglobin. In contrast, the three compounds were ineffective in preventing the NO donor response when injected into the PVN. The present results suggest that oxytocin induces penile erection by activating NO synthase in the PVN. NO in turn activates oxytocinergic neurons projecting to extra-hypothalamic areas that control the expression of this male sexual function by a guanosine cyclic 3':5'-monophosphate (cGMP) independent mechanism at least in the PVN.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arginine / administration & dosage
  • Arginine / analogs & derivatives
  • Cyclic GMP / physiology
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / administration & dosage
  • Male
  • NG-Nitroarginine Methyl Ester
  • Nitric Oxide / physiology*
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Oxytocin / administration & dosage
  • Oxytocin / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Oxytocin / physiology*
  • Paraventricular Hypothalamic Nucleus / drug effects
  • Paraventricular Hypothalamic Nucleus / physiology
  • Penile Erection / drug effects
  • Penile Erection / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • omega-N-Methylarginine


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • omega-N-Methylarginine
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Oxytocin
  • Arginine
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase
  • Cyclic GMP
  • NG-Nitroarginine Methyl Ester