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Am J Physiol. 1991 Oct;261(4 Pt 2):H1078-85.

Endothelin: localization, synthesis, activity, and receptor types in human penile corpus cavernosum.

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Department of Urology, Boston University Medical Center, Massachusetts 02118.


The localization, synthesis, and activity of endothelin and the receptor types mediating its effects in penile corpus cavernosum were investigated in whole tissue and in cultured cells derived from this tissue. With immunocytochemistry, utilizing an antiendothelin 1 (ET-1) monoclonal antibody, endothelin-like immunoreactivity was localized intensely in the endothelium and to a lesser degree in the trabecular smooth muscle. Human corpus cavernosum endothelial cells in culture expressed preproendothelin 1 mRNA, as determined by Northern blot analysis. Significant amounts of endothelin-like immunoreactivity were measured by radioimmunoassay in the supernatants of corpus cavernosum endothelial cells in culture. Endothelins are potent constrictors and caused long-lasting contractions of corporeal strips in organ chambers. Equilibrium binding analysis of endothelins to their receptor sites revealed high-affinity, specific, and saturable binding of labeled endothelins to corporeal membranes. Competition binding experiments demonstrated receptors with high affinity for ET-1 and -2 and low affinity for ET-3 and another, less abundant, set of receptors with high affinity for ET-1, -2, and -3. Affinity labeling of endothelins to corporeal membranes, followed by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis analysis, revealed that ET-1 and -2 cross-linked specifically to three different molecular mass components (75, 52, and 34 kDa). ET-3 bound only to the 34-kDa component. It is concluded that human corpus cavernosum endothelium has the ability to synthesize and release endothelin, that endothelins contract corporeal smooth muscle, and that at least two distinct endothelin receptors may exist and are differentiated by their affinity for ET-3.

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