The present study was designed to characterize the response of human penile dorsal artery and deep dorsal vein to dilator drugs used in the diagnosis and treatment of erectile dysfunction with special emphasis on the effects on sympathetic neurotransmission. Ring segments of penile dorsal artery and deep dorsal vein were obtained from 20 multi-organ donors during procurement of organs for transplantation. The rings (3 ;mm long) were suspended in organ bath chambers for isometric recording of tension. We then studied the relaxant responses to prostaglandin E1 (PGE1), vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP), papaverine (PV), sodium nitroprusside (SNP) and linsidomine chlorhydrate (SIN-1), and analysed the effects of these drugs on contractions induced by stimulation of perivascular sympathetic nerves. In artery and vein rings contracted by noradrenaline, all the drugs tested caused concentration-dependent relaxation. The order of potencies in terms of IC50 values (concentration of agonist causing 50% of the maximal relaxation) was PGE1 = VIP > SNP > SIN-1 = PV. Both arteries and veins contracted to electrical field stimulation (15 ;V, 0.5–2 ;Hz, 0.2 ;ms duration for 15 ;s) in a frequency-dependent manner. All relaxant drugs caused concentration-dependent inhibition of neurogenic contractions; the relative order of potencies was PGE1 > VIP > SNP > SIN-1 = PV. It is concluded that inhibition of sympathetic activity constitutes an effective relaxing mechanism in penile dorsal artery and vein. Modulation of sympathetic activity together with the direct effects on smooth muscle should be considered to evaluate adequately the efficacy of relaxant drugs to increase human penile blood supply.

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