ORIGINAL RESEARCH—BASIC SCIENCE: Superoxide Anion Production in the Rat Penis Impairs Erectile Function in Diabetes: Influence of In Vivo Extracellular Superoxide Dismutase Gene Therapy


Trinity Bivalacqua, MD, PhD, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Brady Urological Institute, Baltimore, MD, USA. Tel: 410-614-3986; Fax: 410-614-3695; E-mail: tbivala1@jhmi.edu


Introduction.  Superoxide anion may contribute to erectile dysfunction (ED) in diabetes mellitus by reducing cavernosal nitric oxide (NO) bioavailability. The purpose of this study was to determine if gene transfer of extracellular superoxide dismutase (EC-SOD) can reduce superoxide anion formation and determine if this reactive oxygen species may contribute to diabetes-related ED in an experimental model of diabetes.

Methods.  Three groups of animals were utilized: (1) control; (2) streptozotocin (STZ)-diabetic rats [60 mg/kg intraperitoneally (ip)] intracavernosally injected with AdCMVβgal (negative control); and (3) STZ-rats intracavernosally injected with AdCMVEC-SOD. Two months after ip injection of STZ, groups 2 and 3 were transfected with the adenoviruses and 2 days after transfection, all animals underwent cavernosal nerve stimulation (CNS) to assess erectile function. Confocal microscopy for superoxide anion and von Willebrand Factor (vWF) was performed in the STZ-diabetic rat. Superoxide anion production, total SOD activity, and cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) levels were measured in each experimental group of rats.

Results.  Confocal microscopy demonstrated superoxide in smooth muscle and endothelial cells of the STZ-rat cavernosum and colocalized with vWF in the endothelium. Higher superoxide anion levels and decreased cGMP levels were found in the penis of STZ-rats at a time when erectile function was reduced. Two days after administration of AdCMVEC-SOD, superoxide anion levels were significantly lower in the penis of STZ-rats. Total SOD activity and cavernosal cGMP was increased in the penis of EC-SOD-transfected rats. STZ-rats transfected with AdCMVEC-SOD had a peak intracavernosal pressure (ICP) and total ICP to CNS that was similar to control rats.

Conclusions.  These data demonstrate that in vivo adenoviral gene transfer of EC-SOD can reduce corporal superoxide anion levels and raise cavernosal cGMP levels by increasing NO bioavailability thus restoring erectile function in the STZ-diabetic rat.