Mechanisms of ischemia-induced cavernosal smooth muscle relaxation impairment in a rabbit model of vasculogenic erectile dysfunction

J Urol. 1998 Dec;160(6 Pt 1):2216-22. doi: 10.1097/00005392-199812010-00089.


Purpose: To determine the effects of hypercholesterolemia and atherosclerosis-induced chronic cavernosal arterial insufficiency on cavernosal smooth muscle tone, nitric oxide synthase (NOS) activity and cavernosal tissue synthesis of constrictor eicosanoids. To study whether inhibition of the cyclooxygenase pathway by indomethacin and tissue treatment with nitric oxide (NO) precursor L-arginine improve hypercholesterolemia and ischemia-induced impaired endothelium-dependent and neurogenic relaxation of cavernosal tissue.

Materials and methods: New Zealand White rabbits were divided into control (n = 10, fed a regular diet), hypercholesterolemia (Hch, n = 13, fed a diet containing 0.5% cholesterol) and chronic cavernosal ischemia (CCI, n = 14) groups. The CCI group underwent balloon deendothelialization of iliac arteries and received a diet containing 0.5% cholesterol. After 16 weeks, we examined the effects of Hch and balloon de-endothelialization induced arterial occlusive disease on iliac arterial blood flow, reactivity of cavernosal tissue, cavernosal NOS activity and cavernosal tissue synthesis of constrictor eicosanoids.

Results: Histology revealed significant atherosclerotic arterial occlusive disease in the CCI group. Iliac artery blood flow in the CCI group was significantly reduced compared with the control and Hch groups. In the Hch and CCI groups, endothelium-dependent relaxation of cavernosal tissue to acetylcholine was significantly reduced compared with the control group. Electrical field stimulation-induced neurogenic relaxation and cavernosal NOS activity were significantly reduced in the CCI group but not in the Hch group. The basal release of cavernosal constrictor eicosanoids, prostaglandin F2alpha (PGF2alpha) and thromboxane A2 (TXA2) was significantly increased in the CCI group. Indomethacin increased endothelium-dependent relaxation in all groups and neurogenic relaxation in the CCI group, but failed to normalize the differences in relaxation between treated and control groups. In the presence of indomethacin, L-arginine improved endothelium-dependent relaxation of cavernosal tissue in the Hch group but did not normalize endothelium-dependent or neurogenic relaxations in the CCI group. Relaxation to NO donor sodium nitroprusside and papaverine was similar in cavernosal tissue from all groups.

Conclusions: Impairment of endothelium-dependent relaxation by Hch occurs secondary to disruption of the NO formation in cavernosal endothelium. Improvement of endothelium-dependent relaxation by L-arginine may suggest lack of availability of L-arginine in cavernosal tissue from the Hch animals. Impairment of endothelium-dependent and neurogenic relaxation by CCI occurs secondary to disruption of the NO formation due to an alteration in the expression or activity of NOS and increased output of constrictor eicosanoids in cavernosal tissue. These studies show that Hch and atherosclerosis-induced chronic cavernosal arterial insufficiency, beyond decreasing cavernosal perfusion pressure, also adversely affect smooth muscle relaxation mechanisms in cavernosal tissue.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arteriosclerosis / physiopathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Hypercholesterolemia / physiopathology
  • Impotence, Vasculogenic / enzymology
  • Impotence, Vasculogenic / physiopathology*
  • Ischemia / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Muscle Relaxation*
  • Muscle, Smooth / enzymology
  • Muscle, Smooth / physiopathology*
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / metabolism
  • Penis / blood supply
  • Penis / enzymology
  • Penis / physiopathology*
  • Prostaglandin-Endoperoxide Synthases / metabolism
  • Rabbits
  • Regional Blood Flow


  • Nitric Oxide Synthase
  • Prostaglandin-Endoperoxide Synthases