• Diabetes;
  • Erectile Dysfunction;
  • Cavernous Tissue;
  • Apoptotic Cell Density


Introduction.  Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common complication of diabetes. Endothelial cell (EC) dysfunction is one of the main mechanisms of diabetic ED. However, loss of EC integrity has never been assessed in human diabetic corpus cavernosum.

Aim.  To identify and quantify apoptotic cells in human diabetic and normal erectile tissue and to compare these results with each patient's clinical data and erection status.

Methods.  Eighteen cavernosal samples were collected, 13 from diabetics with ED and 5 from nondiabetic individuals. Cavernosal structure and cell proliferation status were evaluated by immunohistochemistry. Tissue integrity was assessed by terminal transferase dUTP nick end labeling assay, an index of apoptotic cell density (ACD) established and compared with each patient age, type of diabetes, arterial risk factors number, arterial/veno-occlusive disease, response to intracavernous vasoactive injections (ICI), and penile nitric oxide release test (PNORT).

Main Outcome Measures.  Establish an index of ACD and correlate those results with patient clinical data.

Results.  Nondiabetic samples presented few scattered cells in apoptosis and an ACD of 7.15 ± 0.44 (mean apoptotic cells/tissue area mm2 ± standard error). The diabetic group showed an increased ACD of 23.82 ± 1.53, and apoptotic cells were located specifically at vascular sites. Rehabilitation of these endothelial lesions seemed impaired, as no evidence of EC proliferation was observed. Furthermore, higher ACD in diabetic individuals correlated to poor response to PNORT and to ICI.

Conclusions.  We provided evidence for the first time that loss of cavernosal EC integrity is a crucial event involved in diabetic ED. Furthermore, we were able to establish a threshold between ACD values and cavernosal tissue functionality, as assessed by PNORT and vasoactive ICI. Costa C, Soares R, Castela Â, Adães S, Hastert V, Vendeira P, and Virag R. Increased endothelial apoptotic cell density in human diabetic erectile tissue—Comparison with clinical data. J Sex Med 2009;6:826–835.