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Molecular Biology - Urology

Endogenous Urotensin II Selectively Modulates Erectile Function through eNOS
Published: Thursday, February 02, 2012
Author: Roberta d'Emmanuele di Villa Bianca et al.

by Roberta d'Emmanuele di Villa Bianca, Emma Mitidieri, Ferdinando Fusco, Elena D'Aiuto, Paolo Grieco, Ettore Novellino, Ciro Imbimbo, Vincenzo Mirone, Giuseppe Cirino, Raffaella Sorrentino


Urotensin II (U-II) is a cyclic peptide originally isolated from the neurosecretory system of the teleost fish and subsequently found in other species, including man. U-II was identified as the natural ligand of a G-protein coupled receptor, namely UT receptor. U-II and UT receptor are expressed in a variety of peripheral organs and especially in cardiovascular tissue. Recent evidence indicates the involvement of U-II/UT pathway in penile function in human, but the molecular mechanism is still unclear. On these bases the aim of this study is to investigate the mechanism(s) of U-II-induced relaxation in human corpus cavernosum and its relationship with L-arginine/Nitric oxide (NO) pathway.

Methodology/Principal Findings

Human corpus cavernosum tissue was obtained following in male-to-female transsexuals undergoing surgical procedure for sex reassignment. Quantitative RT-PCR clearly demonstrated the U-II expression in human corpus cavernosum. U-II (0.1 nM–10 µM) challenge in human corpus cavernosum induced a significant increase in NO production as revealed by fluorometric analysis. NO generation was coupled to a marked increase in the ratio eNOS phosphorilated/eNOS as determined by western blot analysis. A functional study in human corpus cavernosum strips was performed to asses eNOS involvement in U-II-induced relaxation by using a pharmacological modulation. Pre-treatment with both wortmannin or geldanamycinin (inhibitors of eNOS phosphorylation and heath shock protein 90 recruitment, respectively) significantly reduced U-II-induced relaxation (0.1 nM–10 µM) in human corpus cavernosum strips. Finally, a co-immunoprecipitation study demonstrated that UT receptor and eNOS co-immunoprecipitate following U-II challenge of human corpus cavernosum tissue.


U-II is endogenously synthesized and locally released in human corpus cavernosum. U-II elicited penile erection through eNOS activation. Thus, U-II/UT pathway may represent a novel therapeutical target in erectile dysfunction.