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Biol Reprod. 1999 Feb;60(2):398-404.

Expression of messenger ribonucleic acid splice variants for vascular endothelial growth factor in the penis of adult rats and humans.

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  • 1Department of Urology, College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, New York, New York 10032, USA.


Erectile dysfunction is often associated with problems in vascular perfusion to the erectile components of the penis. In order to better understand the factors that control vascular formation and perfusion in the erectile tissues of the penis, we have begun to characterize the expression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in penis tissues. VEGF is one of several polypeptides that have significant angiogenic activity in vitro and in vivo. Extensive characterization of the VEGF gene and its products has shown that several different mature mRNA transcripts exist, originating from alternative splicing of the basic VEGF transcript. These variant transcripts can encode peptides with different biological activities. Penile tissue was obtained from adult rats and from human patients undergoing penile prosthesis implantation. Analysis of the forms of VEGF transcripts was performed using a reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction technique with primer pairs derived from the first and eighth exon of the VEGF gene. The expression levels of the various isoforms in the rat penis were then quantified using RNase protection assays. Four previously described splice variants of VEGF mRNA (VEGF 120, 144, 164, 188) were detected in rat and human penile tissues. In contrast to what is seen in the rat lung, where the most abundant form of VEGF mRNA is the 188 splice isoform, VEGF 164 is the most abundant transcript detected in the penis. Finally, sequence analysis of numerous VEGF cDNA clones obtained from the rat penis demonstrated the presence of a previously undescribed VEGF splice variant that could give rise to a protein of 110 amino acid residues (VEGF 110, GenBank accession no. AF080594). In summary, a number of VEGF mRNA isoforms are expressed in the rat and human penis, with the splice variant encoding a 164-amino acid protein present in greatest abundance. This study is a prelude to attempts to genetically manipulate VEGF expression in the penis as a therapy for erectile dysfunction.

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