Sickle cell disease (SCD)-associated priapism is characterized by decreased nitric oxide (NO) signaling and downregulated phosphodiesterase (PDE)5 protein expression and activity in the penis. Priapism is also associated with testosterone deficiency, but molecular mechanisms underlying testosterone effects in the penis in SCD are not known. Given the critical role of androgens in erection physiology and NO synthase (NOS)/PDE5 expression, we hypothesized that testosterone replacement to eugonadal testosterone levels reduces priapism by reversing impaired endothelial (e)NOS activity and molecular abnormalities involving PDE5. Adult male transgenic Berkeley sickle cell (Sickle) and wild-type (WT) mice were implanted with testosterone pellets, which release 1.2 μg testosterone/day for 21 days, or vehicle. After 21 days, animals underwent erectile function assessment followed by collection of blood for serum testosterone measurements, penes for molecular analysis, and seminal vesicles as testosterone-responsive tissue. Serum testosterone levels were measured by radioimmunoassay; protein expressions of PDE5, α-smooth muscle actin, eNOS and nNOS, and phosphorylation of PDE5 at Ser-92, eNOS at Ser-1177, neuronal (n) NOS at Ser-1412, and Akt at Ser-473 were measured by Western blot in penile tissue. Testosterone treatment reversed downregulated serum testosterone levels and increased (p < 0.05) the weight of seminal vesicles in Sickle mice to levels comparable to that of WT mice, indicating restored testosterone levels in Sickle mice. Testosterone treatment reduced (p < 0.05) prolonged detumescence in Sickle mice and normalized downregulated P-PDE5 (Ser-92), PDE5, P-eNOS (Ser-1177), and P-Akt (Ser-473) protein expressions in the Sickle mouse penis. Testosterone treatment did not affect P-nNOS (Ser-1412), eNOS, nNOS, or α-smooth muscle actin protein expressions in the Sickle mouse penis. In conclusion, in the mouse model of human SCD, increasing testosterone to eugonadal levels reduced priapic activity and reversed impaired Akt/eNOS activity and PDE5 protein expression in the penis.
- eNOS phosphorylation
- nNOS phosphorylation
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Reproductive Medicine