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Am J Physiol. 1988 Mar;254(3 Pt 2):H459-67.

Cholinergic neurotransmission in human corpus cavernosum. I. Responses of isolated tissue.

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Department of Urology, Boston University Medical Center 02118.


To investigate the role of cholinergic neurotransmission in erection, human penile corpus cavernosum tissue was studied. Electrical stimulation of strips of corpus cavernosum suspended in an organ chamber induced contractions and relaxations that were blocked by tetrodotoxin. The contractions also were blocked by bretylium and prazosin. Norepinephrine and phenylephrine contracted the isolated strips and this response was prevented by prazosin. Electrical stimulation-induced relaxations were enhanced by bretylium and physostigmine and partially blocked by atropine. The effect of atropine, but not that of physostigmine, was prevented by bretylium. Corporal strips contracted with norepinephrine relaxed to acetylcholine; this effect was blocked by atropine and enhanced by physostigmine. Strips lacking endothelium contracted normally with norepinephrine, but the relaxation caused by acetylcholine was virtually abolished. Thus endothelium lining the lacunar spaces within human corpus cavernosum is required for the relaxation caused by exogenous acetylcholine. There may be three neurotransmitter effector systems that control corpus cavernosum smooth muscle tone: adrenergic (excitatory), cholinergic (inhibitory), and nonadrenergic noncholinergic (inhibitory). Cholinergic nerves do not dilate or constrict directly the smooth muscle but may modulate other neuroeffector systems and/or the endothelium.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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