Expression of functional muscarinic acetylcholine receptor subtypes in human corpus cavernosum and in cultured smooth muscle cells

Receptor. 1995 Fall;5(3):159-76.


Relaxation of the trabecular smooth muscle, which is necessary for penile erection, is controlled locally by neurotransmitters and vasoactive agents. The goal of this study was to identify and characterize muscarinic acetylcholine receptor (mAChR) subtypes expressed in cultured human corpus cavernosum smooth muscle cells (HCC SMC). Binding analysis with L-[benzilic-4,4'-3H(N)]quinuclidinyl benzilate ([3H]QNB) demonstrated the expression of specific muscarinic receptor binding sites in HCC SMC. Analysis of total RNA isolated from whole corpus cavernosum tissue and smooth muscle cells, by RNase protection assays, demonstrated the expression of mRNA transcripts for m1, m2, m3, and m4 mAChR subtypes in whole tissue and m2 and m4 subtypes in cultured cells. In situ hybridization with specific m2 and m4 probes further confirmed the expression of m2 and m4 mRNA transcripts in cultured cells. Carbachol (CCh), a nonselective cholinergic agonist, inhibited cAMP synthesis at low concentrations (0.1-1 microM) and stimulated cAMP synthesis at high concentrations (100 microM), in cultured HCC SMC. CCh (100 microM) further augmented forskolin (FSK), isoproterenol (ISO), and prostaglandin E1 (PGE1)-induced cAMP synthesis. These observations suggest that, in vivo, in HCC, ACh may activate m3 mAChR subtypes on endothelial cells or m2 and m4 subtypes on the SMC. Although m2 and m4 are thought to inhibit adenylate cyclase (AC), the augmentation of cAMP synthesis by high concentrations of CCh in SMC suggests an alternative mechanism of coupling to G-proteins that stimulates AC activity. These studies show that HCC tissue expresses different subtypes of mAChR (m1, m2, m3, and m4), whereas cultured HCC SMC express m2 and m4 subtypes. It is suggested that m2 and m4 receptor subtypes may play an important role in maintaining trabecular smooth muscle tone in vivo. The augmentation of FSK-, ISO, and PGE1-induced cAMP synthesis by CCh suggests possible development of a multidrug therapeutic approach to treatment of erectile dysfunction.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adenylyl Cyclases / metabolism
  • Alprostadil / pharmacology
  • Atropine / pharmacology
  • Carbachol / pharmacology
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Colforsin / pharmacology
  • Cyclic AMP / metabolism
  • Humans
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Isoproterenol / pharmacology
  • Kinetics
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Muscle, Smooth / drug effects
  • Muscle, Smooth / metabolism*
  • Penis / metabolism*
  • Quinuclidinyl Benzilate / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis*
  • Radioligand Assay
  • Receptors, Muscarinic / biosynthesis*
  • Receptors, Muscarinic / classification
  • Receptors, Muscarinic / metabolism
  • Transcription, Genetic*


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Muscarinic
  • Colforsin
  • Quinuclidinyl Benzilate
  • Atropine
  • Carbachol
  • Cyclic AMP
  • Adenylyl Cyclases
  • Alprostadil
  • Isoproterenol