• Diabetic Rat;
  • Erectile Function;
  • Imatinib Mesylate;
  • Platelet-Derived Growth Factor;
  • Protein Tyrosine Kinase;
  • Hyperglycemia;
  • Bcr-Abl


Introduction.  Erectile dysfunction (ED) afflicts 50% of diabetic men, many of whom experience poor results with phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors. The protein tyrosine kinase (PTK) inhibitor imatinib (Gleevec, Novartis Pharmaceuticals, Basel, Switzerland) has therapeutic potential in diabetic men by maintaining β-cell function.

Aim.  To determine if imatinib has a beneficial effect on erectile and vascular function in diabetic rats.

Methods.  Male Sprague-Dawley rats were divided into six groups: (i) control; (ii) imatinib (50 mg/kg, daily gavage)-treated control; (iii) diabetic; (iv) preventive imatinib (8 weeks); (v) reversal imatinib (4 weeks untreated diabetes and 4 weeks of treatment); and (vi) insulin (8 weeks)-treated diabetic rats.

Main Outcome Measures.  After 8 weeks, all groups underwent cavernosal nerve stimulation and measurements of intracavernosal pressure (ICP) and mean arterial pressure (MAP). Contractile and relaxation responses were evaluated using isolated strips of corpus cavernosum smooth muscle (CCSM) and aorta.

Results.  Diabetic rats exhibited a 32% decrease in weight and fivefold increase in blood glucose levels. Imatinib-treated diabetic rats gained weight and partially improved blood glucose levels. Diabetic rats displayed a decrease in ICP/MAP. While maximum electrical field stimulation- and acetylcholine (ACh)-induced relaxations in CCSM strips from the diabetics were reduced, preventive imatinib or insulin treatment normalized ICP/MAP ratios and improved relaxation responses. ACh responses in diabetic aortas were diminished by 50.1% and restored by imatinib. While contractile responses to phenylephrine in diabetic CCSM were not altered, there was a significant enhancement (59.4 %) in the aortic contractile response in diabetic rats, which was restored by imatinib and insulin treatment.

Conclusions.  In diabetic rats, prolonged therapy with imatinib improves diabetes-related ED and vascular function, which may involve normalization of high glucose levels and restoration of PTK activation. Future studies are needed to elaborate on the actions of imatinib on diabetic vascular complications. Gur S, Kadowitz PJ, and Hellstrom WJG. A protein tyrosine kinase inhibitor, imatinib mesylate (Gleevec), improves erectile and vascular function secondary to a reduction of hyperglycemia in diabetic rats. J Sex Med 2010;7:3341–3350.