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Int J Impot Res. 2000 Mar;12 Suppl 1:S48-63.

Role of alpha adrenergic receptors in erectile function.

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Department of Urology, Boston University School of Medicine, MA 02118, USA.


Penile erection is a complex physiological process in which the regulation of penile hemodynamics depends on signal input from central and peripheral nervous systems, and on the balance and interplay between several local physiological mediators (neurotransmitters, vasoactive agents and endocrine factors). A role for the sympathetic nervous system in attaining or maintaining penile flaccidity and detumescence is well recognized. However, the exact mechanisms of alpha-adrenergic receptor mediated erectile function remain poorly defined. The objective of this review is to summarize data presented in the literature and from our laboratory on alpha-adrenergic receptors, and to discuss the conceptual framework by which the alpha-adrenergic receptor pathway modulates penile corpus cavernosum smooth muscle contractility. We will integrate the current state of knowledge of penile erection into one framework encompassing the biochemical and physiological pathways responsible for trabecular smooth muscle relaxation (erection) and contraction (detumescence). We will focus our discussion on local control mechanisms of alpha-adrenergic receptors and explore the following topics: (1) functional activity of alpha-1 and alpha-2 adrenergic receptors in the physiology of human penile erection; (2) identification, classification and characterization of alpha-1 and alpha-2 adrenergic receptor subtypes in human penile erectile tissue; (3) molecular mechanism of action of alpha-1 and alpha-2 adrenergic receptors in human penile erectile tissue; (4) blockade of alpha-1 and alpha-2 adrenergic receptor action by selective and non-selective alpha-1 and alpha-2 adrenergic receptor antagonists (blockers); (5) physiologic (functional) antagonism of alpha-1 and alpha-2 adrenergic receptor activity by vasodilators mediating smooth muscle relaxation; and (6) key areas of consensus, as well as critical gaps in the existing scientific knowledge concerning the rationale and the potential use of alpha-blockers in erectile function.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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