• Sildenafil;
  • Angiogenesis;
  • Fibrosis;
  • Bilateral Cavernosal Nerve Resection;
  • Epiregulin, Smooth Muscle


Introduction.  It has been shown that phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) inhibitors preserve smooth muscle (SM) content and ameliorate the fibrotic degeneration normally seen in the corpora cavernosa after bilateral cavernosal nerve resection (BCNR). However, the downstream mechanisms by which these drugs protect the corpora cavernosa remain poorly understood.

Aim.  To provide insight into the mechanism, we aimed to determine the gene expression profile of angiogenesis-related pathways within the penile tissue after BCNR with or without continuous sildenafil (SIL) treatment.

Methods.  Five-month-old Fisher rats were subjected to BCNR or sham operation and treated with or without SIL (20 mg/kg/BW drinking water) for 3 days or 45 days (N = 8 rats per group). Total RNAs isolated from the denuded penile shaft and prostate were subjected to reverse transcription and to angiogenesis real-time-polymerase chain reaction arrays (84 genes). Changes in protein expression of selected genes such as epiregulin (EREG) and connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) were corroborated by Western blot and immunohistochemistry.

Main Outcomes Measures.  Genes modulated by BCNR and SIL treatment.

Results.  A decreased expression of genes related to SM growth factors such as EREG, platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF), extracellular matrix regulators such as metalloproteinases 3 and 9, endothelial growth factors, together with an upregulation of pro-fibrotic genes such as CTGF and transforming growth factor beta 2 were found at both time points after BCNR. SIL treatment reversed this process by upregulating endothelial and SM growth factors and downregulating pro-fibrotic factors. SIL did not affect the expression of EREG, VEGF, and PDGF in the ventral prostate of BCNR animals

Conclusions.  SIL treatment after BCNR activates genes related to SM preservation and downregulates genes related to fibrosis in the corpora cavernosa. These results provide a mechanistic justification for the use of SIL and other PDE5 inhibitors as protective therapy against corporal SM loss and fibrosis after radical prostatectomy. Sirad F, Hlaing S, Kovanecz I, Artaza JN, Garcia LA, Rajfer J, and Ferrini MG. Sildenafil promotes smooth muscle preservation and ameliorates fibrosis through modulation of extracellular matrix and tissue growth factor gene expression after bilateral cavernosal nerve resection in the rat. J Sex Med 2011;8:1048–1060.