Introduction. A population of lumbar spinothalamic cells (LSt cells) has been demonstrated to play a pivotal role in ejaculatory behavior and comprise a critical component of the spinal ejaculation generator. LSt cells are hypothesized to regulate ejaculation via their projections to autonomic and motor neurons in the lumbosacral spinal cord.
Aim. The current study tested the hypothesis that ejaculatory reflexes are dependent on LSt cells via projections within the lumbosacral spinal cord.
Methods. Male rats received intraspinal injections of neurotoxin saporin conjugated to substance P analog, previously shown to selectively lesion LSt cells. Two weeks later, males were anesthetized and spinal cords were transected. Subsequently, males were subjected to ejaculatory reflex paradigms, including stimulation of the dorsal penile nerve (DPN), urethrogenital stimulation or administration of D3 agonist 7-OH-DPAT. Electromyographic recordings of the bulbocavernosus muscle (BCM) were analyzed for rhythmic bursting characteristic of the expulsion phase of ejaculation. In addition, a fourth commonly used paradigm for ejaculation and erections in unanesthetized, spinal-intact male rats was utilized: the ex copula reflex paradigm.
Main Outcome Measures. LSt cell lesions were predicted to prevent rhythmic bursting of BCM following DPN, urethral, or pharmacological stimulation, and emissions in the ex copula paradigm. In contrast, LSt cell lesions were not expected to abolish erectile function as measured in the ex copula paradigm.
Results. LSt cell lesions prevented rhythmic contractions of the BCM induced by any of the ejaculatory reflex paradigms in spinalized rats. However, LSt cell lesions did not affect erectile function nor emissions determined in the ex copula reflex paradigm.
Conclusions. These data demonstrate that LSt cells are essential for ejaculatory, but not erectile reflexes, as previously reported for mating animals. Moreover, LSt cells mediate ejaculation via projections within the spinal cord, presumably to autonomic and motor neurons. Staudt MD, Truitt WA, McKenna KE, de Oliveira CVR, Lehman MN, and Coolen LM. A pivotal role of lumbar spinothalamic cells in the regulation of ejaculation via intraspinal connections. J Sex Med 2012;9:2256–2265.