NO synthase in cholinergic nerves and NO-induced relaxation in the rat isolated corpus cavernosum

Petter Hedlund, Per Alm, Karl Erik Andersson

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1. In the rat corpus cavernosum (CC), the distribution of immunoreactivity for neuronal and endothelial NO synthase (nNOS and eNOS), and the pattern of NOS-immunoreactive (-IR) nerves in relation to some other nerve populations, were investigated. Cholinergic nerves were specifically immunolabelled with antibodies to the vesicular acetylcholine transporter protein (VAChT). 2. In the smooth muscle septa surrounding the cavernous spaces, and around the central and helicine arteries, the numbers of PGP- and tyrosine hydroxylase (TH)-IR terminals were large, whereas neuropeptide Y (NPY)-, VAChT-, nNOS-, and vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP)-IR terminals were found in few to moderate numbers. 3. Double immunolabelling revealed that VAChT- and nNOS-IR terminals, VAChT- and VIP-IR terminals, nNOS-IR and VIP-IR terminals, and TH- and NPY-IR terminals showed coinciding profiles, and co-existence was verified by confocal laser scanning microscopy. TH immunoreactivity was not found in VAChT-, nNOS-, or VIP-IR nerve fibres or terminals. 4. An isolated strip preparation of the rat CC was developed, and characterized. In this preparation, cumulative addition of NO to noradrenaline (NA)-contracted strips, produced concentration-dependent, rapid, and almost complete relaxations. Electrical field stimulation of endothelin-1-contracted preparations produced frequency-dependent responses: a contractile twitch followed by a fast relaxant response. After cessation of stimulation, then was a slow relaxant phase. Inhibition of NO synthesis, or blockade of guanylate cyclase, abolished the first relaxant phase, whereas the second relaxation was unaffected. 5. The results suggest that in the rat CC, nNOS, VAChT-, and VIP-immunoreactivities can be found in the same parasympathetic cholinergic neurons. Inhibitory neurotransmission involves activation of the NO-system, and the release of other, as yet unknown, transmitters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)349-360
Number of pages12
JournalBritish Journal of Pharmacology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1999


  • Carbon monoxide
  • Guanylate cyclase
  • Heme oxygenase
  • Penile erection
  • Tyrosine hydroxylase
  • Vasoactive intestinal polypeptide
  • Vesicular acetylcholine transporter protein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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