Mechanistic link between erectile dysfunction and systemic endothelial dysfunction in type 2 diabetic rats

B. Musicki, J. L. Hannan, G. Lagoda, T. J. Bivalacqua, A. L. Burnett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Men with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) and erectile dysfunction (ED) have greater risk of cardiovascular events than T2DM men without ED, suggesting ED as a predictor of cardiovascular events in diabetic men. However, molecular mechanisms underlying endothelial dysfunction in the diabetic penis explaining these clinical observations are not known. We evaluated whether the temporal relationship between ED and endothelial dysfunction in the systemic vasculature in T2DM involves earlier redox imbalance and endothelial nitric oxidase synthase (eNOS) dysfunction in the penis than in the systemic vasculature, such as the carotid artery. Rats were rendered T2DM by high-fat diet for 2 weeks, followed by an injection with low-dose streptozotocin. After 3 weeks, erectile function (intracavernosal pressure) was measured and penes and carotid arteries were collected for molecular analyses of eNOS uncoupling, protein S-glutathionylation, oxidative stress (4-hydroxy-2-nonenal, 4-HNE), protein expression of NADPH oxidase subunit gp91phox, endothelium-dependent vasodilation in the carotid artery, and non-adrenergic, non-cholinergic (NANC)-mediated cavernosal relaxation. Erectile response to electrical stimulation of the cavernous nerve and NANC-mediated cavernosal relaxation was decreased (p < 0.05), while relaxation of the carotid artery to acetylcholine was not impaired in T2DM rats. eNOS monomerization, protein expressions of 4-HNE and gp91phox, and protein S-glutathionylation, were increased (p < 0.05) in the penis, but not in the carotid artery, of T2DM compared to non-diabetic rats. In conclusion, redox imbalance, increased oxidative stress by NADPH oxidase, and eNOS uncoupling, occur early in T2DM in the penis, but not in the carotid artery. These molecular changes contribute to T2DM ED, while vascular function in the systemic vasculature remains preserved.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)977-983
Number of pages7
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016


  • NADPH oxidase
  • S-glutathionylation
  • carotid artery
  • endothelial nitric oxidase synthase uncoupling
  • oxidative stress
  • penis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Endocrinology
  • Urology


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