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ORIGINAL RESEARCH: Phosphodiesterase Type 5 Regulation in the Penile Corpora Cavernosa


Ching-Shwun Lin, PhD, Knuppe Molecular Urology Laboratory, University of California—Department of Urology, San Francisco, CA 94115, USA. Tel: 415-476-3800; Fax: 415-476-3803; E-mail:


Introduction.  Penile detumescence depends on the hydrolysis of cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) by phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5). It is hoped that a review of publications relevant to the regulation of PDE5 in the penis will be helpful to both scientists and clinicians who are interested in the sciences of erectile function/dysfunction.

Aims.  The aim of this article is to comprehensively review the mechanisms by which PDE5 activity and expression in the penis are regulated. All published studies relevant to PDE5 regulation in the penis or penile cells will be reviewed.

Methods.  Entrez (PubMed) was used to search for publications relevant to the topics of this review. Keywords used in the searches included vascular, cavernous, penis, smooth muscle, signaling molecules, erection, priapism, and PDE5. Articles that are dedicated to the study of erectile function/dysfunction were prioritized for citation.

Results.  Regulation of PDE5 can occur at both protein and gene levels. At protein level, PDE5 is activated by phosphorylation and/or allosteric cGMP binding. Deactivation is carried out by protein phosphatase 1 and thus linked to the Rho-kinase signaling pathway. Cleavage of PDE5 into an inactive form has been shown as carried out by caspase-3. At the gene level, PDE5 expression is regulated at two alternative promoters, PDE5A and PDE5A2, both of which are positively regulated by cyclic adenosine monophosphate and cGMP. Downregulation of PDE5 has been observed in the penis of castrated animals; however, proof of androgen regulation of PDE5 gene requires examination of the smooth muscle content. Hyperoxia and hypoxia, respectively, regulate PDE5 expression positively and negatively. Hypoxic downregulation of PDE5 is a possible mechanism for the development of priapism.

Conclusions.  PDE5 can be regulated at protein and gene levels. In the penis, changes of PDE5 activity have been linked to its phosphorylation status, and downregulation of PDE5 expression has been associated with hypoxia. Lin CS. PDE5 regulation in the penile corpora nervosa. J Sex Med 2009;6(suppl 3):203–209.

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