Effects of sildenafil on the relaxation of human corpus cavernosum tissue in vitro and on the activities of cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterase isozymes

J Urol. 1998 Jun;159(6):2164-71. doi: 10.1016/S0022-5347(01)63299-3.


Purpose: Sildenafil, an inhibitor of cGMP-specific phosphodiesterase 5 (PDE5), is currently undergoing evaluation as an oral therapy for penile erectile dysfunction. The aims of this study were to investigate the mechanism of action of sildenafil on the neurogenic relaxation of human corpus cavernosum (HCC) in vitro and to determine the activity of sildenafil against a full range of PDE isozymes.

Materials and methods: Strips of HCC tissue were precontracted with phenylephrine. Relaxation responses resulting from electrical field stimulation (EFS) were then determined in the presence and absence of sildenafil. The effects of sildenafil on PDE1 to 5 prepared from human tissues and PDE6 from bovine retina were determined by measuring the conversion of [3H]-cGMP or [3H]-cAMP to their respective [3H]-5'-mononucleotides.

Results: Sildenafil (0.001 to 1 microM) enhanced the EFS-induced, nitric oxide (NO) dependent, relaxation of HCC in a concentration-dependent manner to a maximum of 3 times the pretreatment level at 1 microM sildenafil. Compared with zaprinast, an early PDE5 inhibitor, sildenafil was approximately 240-fold more potent, inhibiting PDE5 from HCC with a geometric mean IC50 of 3.5 nM. For sildenafil, IC50 values for inhibition of PDE1 to 4 were 80 to more than 8500 times greater than that for PDE5 and the IC50 for PDE6 (33 nM) was approximately 9-fold greater.

Conclusions: The data support the proposal that enhancement of penile erection by sildenafil in patients with erectile dysfunction involves potentiation of the NO-stimulated cGMP signal mediating relaxation of cavernosal smooth muscle during sexual stimulation. Sildenafil is a potent inhibitor of PDE5 from HCC, with high selectivity for PDE5 relative to other PDE isozymes.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Cyclic GMP / metabolism
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Guanylate Cyclase / metabolism
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Isoenzymes / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Muscle Relaxation
  • Muscle, Smooth / drug effects
  • Muscle, Smooth / physiology
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism
  • Penile Erection / drug effects*
  • Phosphodiesterase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Phosphoric Diester Hydrolases / metabolism*
  • Piperazines / pharmacology*
  • Purines
  • Purinones / pharmacology
  • Sildenafil Citrate
  • Sulfones


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Isoenzymes
  • Phosphodiesterase Inhibitors
  • Piperazines
  • Purines
  • Purinones
  • Sulfones
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Sildenafil Citrate
  • Phosphoric Diester Hydrolases
  • Guanylate Cyclase
  • zaprinast
  • Cyclic GMP