To evaluate whether FK506 and other immunophilin ligands may have potential therapeutic efficacy for erectile function preservation after penile nerve injury, we demonstrated localizations of the immunophilin FK506 binding protein 12 (FKBP 12) in intact and injured rat penile nerves and correlated these findings with localizations of neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS), which neuronally forms nitric oxide for mediation of penile erection, in response to systemically administered FK506. Adult male Sprague-Dawley rats were subjected to unilateral right cavernous nerve forceps crush injury and administered FK506 (1 mg/kg i.p.) or saline at the same time and daily up to 7 days. At 1, 3 and 7 days after injury, bilateral cavernous nerves and major pelvic ganglia were collected for nNOS immunohistochemistry, FKBP 12 immunohistochemistry, and FKBP 12 in situ hybridisation. Protein expressions of nNOS and FKBP 12 were observed in major pelvic ganglion, cavernous nerve and nerve terminals within the rat penis as well as mRNA expression of FKBP 12 observed in the rat major pelvic ganglion neuronal cell bodies to a minimal extent at baseline conditions. After cavernous nerve injury, nNOS immunoreactivity was observed to be slightly diminished in ipsilateral penile nerve structures at only one day following injury while both FKBP 12 protein and mRNA expressions were observed to be increased at each interval of study. FK506 treatment did not affect staining of intact or injured nerves. Our demonstration that FKBP 12 is localized to penile innervation in the rat and becomes upregulated following cavernous nerve crush injury, independent of FK506 treatment, suggests that this immunophilin mediates a neurotrophic mechanism. Whether FK506 affords neuroprotection that preserves penile erection through FKBP 12 upregulation is unclear.
- Nitric oxide
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