Improved erectile function after Rho-kinase inhibition in a rat castrate model of erectile dysfunction

Christopher J Wingard, John A Johnson, Andre Holmes, Anita Prikosh
American Journal of Physiology. Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology 2003, 284 (6): R1572-9
Androgens are reported to act as strong modulators of erectile function influencing both nitric oxide and vasoconstrictor signaling. Castration results in a depressed erectile response that is associated with a loss of nitric oxide production and increased responsiveness to constrictive agents. The increased vasoconstrictor response may be a result of an active RhoA/Rho-kinase signaling pathway. We report here results of studies designed to test the hypothesis that inhibition of the Rho-kinase pathway restores erectile function in a castrate model by relaxing the smooth muscle. Mean arterial (MAP) and corpus cavernosal (CCP) pressures were monitored during intracavernosal injection of the Rho-kinase inhibitor Y-27632. Castration reduced the maximal erectile response (CCP/MAP) by 33%, and testosterone replacement restored the response (intact, 0.736 +/- 0.040; castrate, 0.492 +/- 0.022; testosterone, 0.681 +/- 0.073). Injection of Y-27632 increased CCP in all experimental groups; it also left shifted the voltage response curve and increased the maximal CCP/MAP response (intact, 0.753 +/- 0.091; castrate, 0.782 +/- 0.081; testosterone treated, 0.894 +/- 0.033). Y-27632 dose dependently relaxed phenylephrine-stimulated cavernosal tissues. Cavernosal tissues showed increased RhoA and Rho-kinase protein levels after castration. Our data support the hypothesis that an active Rho/Rho-kinase pathway contributes to the reduced erectile response after castration due to an upregulation of RhoA/Rho-kinase protein levels and that inhibition of this pathway may serve as an effective treatment for erectile dysfunction.

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