Tissue angiotensin II as a modulator of erectile function. I. Angiotensin peptide content, secretion and effects in the corpus cavernosum

J Urol. 1997 May;157(5):1920-5.


Purpose: Although Angiotensin II (Ang II) is a major modulator of regional blood flow in the extracavernosal segments of the vascular bed, its role in erectile function is unknown. The corpus cavernosum penis is a modified vascular tissue that contains endothelial and smooth muscle cells. In other segments of the vascular bed, these cell types produce Ang II. Therefore, we explored the presence and function of an Ang II producing paracrine system in the corpus cavernosum.

Methods: The angiotensin content of the human corpus cavernosum was measured by radioimmunoassay. The distribution pattern of Ang II containing cells within the corpus cavernosum was assessed by an immunohistochemical technique, and the rate of its secretion was determined by superfusion. The effects of Ang II and its antagonist, losartan, on intracavernosal pressure were determined under in vivo conditions, in anesthetized dogs.

Results: Human corpus cavernosum contained 1178 +/- 223 (SEM) fmol Ang II, 528 +/- 171 fmol Ang I, 475 +/- 67 fmol des-asp-Ang I, and 1897 +/- 371 fmol des-asp-Ang II/gm. tissue (n = 4). Ang II was found mainly in endothelial cells lining blood vessels and smooth muscle bundles within the corpus cavernosum. Superfused cavernosal tissue secreted immuno-reactive Ang II (Ang II(ir)) at a rate of 57 +/- 36.5 fmol Ang II(ir)/gm. tissue/minute (n = 10). The amount of Ang II released per gram of tissue in an hour was 3-fold greater than the Ang II content/gm. tissue, suggesting a local production of Ang II. Papaverine and prostaglandin E1 suppressed Ang II secretion significantly (p <0.001, p = 0.013). The responsiveness to inhibition was a function of the initial rate of Ang II secretion. Tissue samples with a high rate of secretion were less responsive to the inhibitors than tissue that secreted small amounts of Ang II (n = 6). In anesthetized dogs, intra-cavernosal injection of Ang II terminated spontaneous erections, while losartan increased the intracavernosal pressure in a dose dependent manner up to the mean arterial pressure (n = 4).

Conclusions: The corpus cavernosum produces and secretes physiologically relevant amounts of Ang II. The rate of Ang II secretion can be modulated by pharmacologic agents that regulate cytosolic calcium levels and are used clinically to treat erectile dysfunction. Intracavernosal injection of Ang II causes contraction of cavernosal smooth muscle and terminates spontaneous erection in anesthetized dog, while administration of an Ang II receptor antagonist results in smooth muscle relaxation and thus erection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alprostadil / pharmacology
  • Anesthesia
  • Angiotensin II / administration & dosage
  • Angiotensin II / analysis
  • Angiotensin II / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Angiotensin II / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Dogs
  • Humans
  • Injections
  • Losartan / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Papaverine / pharmacology
  • Penile Erection / physiology*
  • Penis / chemistry
  • Penis / cytology
  • Penis / drug effects
  • Penis / physiology*


  • Angiotensin II
  • Papaverine
  • Alprostadil
  • Losartan