Penile erection is a complicated event involving the regulation of corpus cavernosal smooth muscle tone. Recently, the small monomeric G-protein RhoA and its downstream effector Rho-kinase have been proposed to be important players for mediating vasoconstriction in the penis. RhoA/Rho-kinase increases MLC (myosin light chain) phosphorylation through inhibition of MLCP (MLC phosphatase) thereby increasing Ca2+ sensitivity. This review will outline the RhoA/Rho-kinase signalling pathway, including the upstream regulators, guanine nucleotide exchange factors, GDP dissociation inhibitors and GTPase-activating proteins. We also summarize the current knowledge about the physiological roles of RhoA/Rho-kinase in both male and female erectile tissues and its aberrations contributing to erectile dysfunction in several disease states. Understanding the RhoA/Rho-kinase signalling pathway in the regulation of erection is important for the development of therapeutic interventions for erectile dysfunction.

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