Human Telomerase Reverse Transcriptase Transfection Reduces Apoptosis in Human Penile Smooth Muscle Cells and Slows Down Cellular Aging


  • Funding: This work was supported by grants from the Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. 30000063 and 30670818).

Zhansong Zhou, MD, Institute of Urinary Surgery, Southwest Hospital, Third Military Medical University, Chongqing 400038, China. Tel: (8623) 6875-4186; Fax: (8623) 6546-0268; E-mail:


Introduction.  Erectile dysfunction (ED) is one of the most common diseases in male urology that greatly affects the quality of life in senior people. Relaxation of corpus cavernosum smooth muscle is the key to penile erection.

Aim.  To explore effects of human telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT) gene transfection on biological behaviors of human penile smooth muscle cells.

Methods.  Human penile smooth muscle cells were grown in primary culture. A fluorescent eukaryotic expression vector, hTERT-internal ribosome entry site 2 (IRES2)-enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP), was constructed and transfected into human penile smooth muscle cells using Lipofectin reagent.

Main Outcome Measure.  The telomerase activity, mitotic index, cell apoptosis, and cell growth curves of transfected smooth muscle cells were determined; the potential formation of malignant phenotypes in these transfected cells was investigated.

Results.  Telomerase activity, mitotic index, and cell growth of hTERT-transfected cells were significantly higher than those of nontransfected cells and cells transfected with the empty EGFP vector, while apoptosis rates were the lowest in hTERT-transfected cells. No changes in cell morphology, chromosome number, and tumorigenicity were observed between hTERT-transfected cells and control cells.

Conclusion.  In this study, for the first time, the hTERT gene was transfected into human penile smooth muscle cells, and the gene increased telomerase activity in cells, reduced cell apoptosis, and slowed down cell aging. We believe that this finding is of potential clinical value in the prevention and treatment of organic ED. Wu XJ, Song B, Zhang J, Li L, Ji H, Lu G, Chen Z, Li W, and Zhou Z. Human telomerase reverse transcriptase transfection reduces apoptosis in human penile smooth muscle cells and slows down cellular aging. J Sex Med 2012;9:494–504.