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J Sex Med. 2013 Apr;10(4):960-71. doi: 10.1111/jsm.12063. Epub 2013 Jan 24.

Superoxide anion production by NADPH oxidase plays a major role in erectile dysfunction in middle-aged rats: prevention by antioxidant therapy.

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Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of Campinas, Campinas, SP, Brazil.



Prevalence of erectile dysfunction (ED) increases progressively with aging, but the ED pathophysiology at its early stages is still poorly investigated.


This study aimed to evaluate the functional and molecular alterations of erectile function at middle age, focusing on the contribution of oxidative stress in erectile tissue for the ED.


Young (3.5-month) and middle-aged (10-month) male Wistar rats were used. Rat corpus cavernosum (RCC) was dissected free and mounted in 10-mL organ baths containing Krebs solution. Intracavernosal pressure (ICP) in anesthetized rats was evaluated.


Concentration-response curves to endothelium-dependent and endothelium-independent agents, as well as to electrical field stimulation (EFS), were obtained in RCC strips. Measurement of cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) and expressions of neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS) and endothelial NOS (eNOS), gp91(phox) and superoxide dismutase-1 (SOD-1) expressions in RCC were evaluated.


ICP was significantly reduced in middle-aged compared with young rats. RCC relaxations to acetylcholine (10(-8) to 10(-2)  M), sodium nitroprusside (10(-8) to 10(-2)  M), sildenafil (10(-9) to 10(-5)  M), BAY 41-2272 (10(-9) to 10(-5)  M), and EFS (4-32 Hz) were decreased in middle-aged group, which were nearly normalized by apocynin (NADPH oxidase inhibitor; 10(-4)  M) or SOD (75 U/mL). Prolonged treatment with apocynin (85 mg/rat/day, 4 weeks) also restored the impaired relaxations in middle-aged rats. Relaxations to 8-bromoguanosine 3',5'-cyclic monophosphate sodium salt (8-Br-cGMP; 10(-8) to 3 × 10(-4)  M) remained unchanged between groups. Basal and stimulated cGMP production were lower in middle-aged group, an effect fully restored by apocynin and SOD. Protein expression of nNOS and phosphorylated eNOS (p-eNOS) (Ser-1177) reduced, whereas gp(91phox) mRNA expression increased in RCC from middle-aged rats.


ED in middle-aged rats is associated with decreased NO bioavailability in erectile tissue due to upregulation of NADPH oxidase subunit gp91(phox) and downregulation of nNOS/p-eNOS. Antioxidant therapies may be a good pharmacological approach to prevent ED at its early stages.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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