Adenoviral gene transfer of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) to the penis improves age-related erectile dysfunction in the rat

T J Bivalacqua, H C Champion, Y S Mehta, A B Abdel-Mageed, S C Sikka, L J Ignarro, P J Kadowitz, W J Hellstrom
International Journal of Impotence Research 2000, 12: S8-17
Nitric oxide (NO) is the principal mediator of penile erection. NO is synthesized by a variety of nitric oxide synthases (NOS). It has been demonstrated that a decrease in NOS activity, as observed in aging, is associated with a diminished erectile response. The objective of this study was to determine if adenoviral-mediated gene transfer of eNOS could reverse age-related erectile dysfunction in the rat. Two groups of animals were transfected with adenoviruses: (1) aged rats (60 weeks) with AdRSVbetagal; and (2) aged rats (60 weeks) with AdRSVeNOS. Five days after transfection, these study animals underwent cavernosal nerve stimulation (CNS) to assess erectile function and their responses were compared with young (20 weeks) control rats. Cross-sections of the rat penises transfected with AdRSVeNOS were examined after trichrome staining. Adenoviral transduction efficiency of beta-galactosidase reporter gene was measured by a galacto-light chemiluminescent reporter gene assay in cavernosal tissues of rats administered AdRSVbetagal. The transgene expression of eNOS was examined by RT-PCR in rats transfected with AdRSVbetagal and AdRSVeNOS. eNOS and iNOS protein levels were measured by Western blot analysis, and cGMP levels were assessed in cavernosal tissue by enzyme immunoassay. Adenoviral expression of the beta-galactosidase reporter gene was observed in cavernosal tissue for up to 30 days, with peak expression registered at 5 days after intracavernosal administration of AdRSVbetagal. Cross-sections of the rat penises transfected with the AdRSVeNOS revealed no pathological (morphological or histological) changes. Five days after administration of AdRSVeNOS, eNOS protein, mRNA and cGMP levels in the corpora cavernosa were significantly increased (P<0. 05), while iNOS protein levels remained unchanged (P>0.05). In conclusion, enhanced expression of eNOS employing an adenoviral vector significantly increased the erectile response to cavernosal nerve stimulation in the aged rat, similar to the response observed in younger rats. These data suggest that in vivo adenoviral gene transfer of eNOS can physiologically improve erectile function in the aged rat.

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