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Adenosine signaling: good or bad in erectile function?
The erectile status of penile tissue is governed largely by the tone of cavernosal smooth muscle cells, which is determined by the balance of vascular relaxants and constrictors. Vascular relaxants play a key role in regulating the tone of cavernosal smooth muscle and thus the initiation and maintenance of penile erection. Early studies drew attention to the potential role of adenosine signaling in this process. However, the serendipitous discovery of the effect of sildenafil on erectile physiology drew more attention toward nitric oxide (NO) as a vasodilator in the process of penile erection, and a recently discovered, unexpected erectile phenotype of adenosine deaminase-deficient mice reemphasizes the importance of adenosine as a key regulatory of erectile status. Adenosine, like NO, is a potent and short-lived vasorelaxant that functions via cyclic nucleotide second messenger signaling to promote smooth muscle relaxation. Recent studies reviewed here show that adenosine functions to relax the corpus cavernosum and promote penile erection. Excess adenosine in penile tissue contributes to the disorder called priapism, and impaired adenosine signaling is associated with erectile dysfunction. More recent research summarized in this review reveals that adenosine functions as a key endogenous vasodilator in the initiation and maintenance of normal penile erection. This new insight highlights adenosine signaling pathways operating in penile tissue as significant therapeutic targets for the treatment of erectile disorders.
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, UT Houston Medical School, Texas 77225, USA.
Phosphodiesterase 5 Inhibitors
Receptors, Purinergic P1
Pub Type(s)Journal Article