Activation of the ET-1/ETA Pathway Contributes to Erectile Dysfunction Associated with Mineralocorticoid Hypertension

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The cavernosal tissue is highly responsive to endothelin-1 (ET-1), and penile smooth muscle cells not only respond to but also synthesize ET-1.


Considering that ET-1 is directly involved in end-organ damage in salt-sensitive forms of hypertension, we hypothesized that activation of the ET-1/ETA receptor pathway contributes to erectile dysfunction (ED) associated with mineralocorticoid hypertension.


Wistar rats were uninephrectomized and submitted to deoxycorticosterone acetate (DOCA)-salt treatment for 5 weeks. Control (Uni [uninephrectomized control]) animals were uninephrectomized and given tap water. Uni and DOCA-salt rats were simultaneously treated with vehicle or atrasentan (ETA receptor antagonist, 5 mg/Kg/day). Cavernosal reactivity to ET-1, phenylephrine (PE), ETB receptor agonist (IRL-1620) and electric field stimulation (EFS) were evaluated in vitro. Expression of ROCKα, ROCKβ, myosin phosphatase target subunit 1 (MYPT-1), and extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 (ERK 1/2) were evaluated by western blot analysis. ET-1 and ETA receptor mRNA expression was evaluated by real-time reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction. Voltage-dependent increase in intracavernosal pressure/mean arterial pressure (ICP/MAP) was used to evaluate erectile function in vivo.

Main Outcome Measure

ETA receptor blockade prevents DOCA-salt-associated ED.


Cavernosal strips from DOCA-salt rats displayed augmented preproET-1 expression, increased contractile responses to ET-1 and decreased relaxation to IRL-1620. Contractile responses induced by EFS and PE were enhanced in cavernosal tissues from DOCA-salt hypertensive rats. These functional changes were associated with increased activation of the RhoA/Rho-kinase and ERK 1/2 pathways. Treatment of rats with atrasentan completely prevented changes in cavernosal reactivity in DOCA-salt rats and restored the decreased ICP/MAP, completely preventing ED in DOCA-salt rats.


Activation of the ET-1/ETA pathway contributes to mineralocorticoid hypertension-associated ED. ETA receptor blockade may represent an alternative therapeutic approach for ED associated with salt-sensitive hypertension and in pathological conditions where increased levels of ET-1 are present.

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