Long-term inhibition of PDE5 ameliorates aging-induced changes in rat testis

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Abstract

NO-cGMP signaling pathway has been implicated in reduction of testicular steroidogenesis during aging. Here we analyzed the effect of PDE5 inhibition on old testicular phenotype formation. The old phenotype exhibited low testosterone and increased nitrite levels in circulation, increased cGMP accumulation in testicular interstitial fluid (TIF), progressive atrophy of testicular seminiferous tubules and enlargement of interstitial area followed by rise in blood vessel density and slight increase in the number of Leydig cells and macrophages. Leydig cells have reduced steroidogenic capacity, increased MAP kinases expression (MEK, ERK1/2, JNK) and antiapoptotic PRKG1 and AKT, suggesting increased proliferation/survival and accumulation of senescent Leydig cells in testis. In 12month-old rats, a long-term treatment with sildenafil (PDE5 inhibitor) normalized testosterone/nitrite levels in circulation and cGMP accumulation in TIF; improved Leydig cell steroidogenic capacity; decreased MEK, ERK1/2 and PRKG1 expression; prevented an increase in the Leydig cells number and atrophy of seminiferous tubules leading to histological appearance of young rat testes. In 18month-old rats, long-term PDE5 inhibition partially recovered testosterone and nitrite levels in serum; normalized PRKG1 expression without effect on MEK and ERK1/2; and slowed down Leydig cell and macrophage accumulation and regressive tubular changes. Culturing of primary Leydig cells from aged rats in presence of PDE5-inhibitor stimulated steroidogenic and MAPK gene expression. Taking together, results indicate that cGMP targeting alter both steroidogenesis and signaling pathways associated with cell proliferation/survival. The long-term PDE5 inhibition improves testicular steroidogenesis and slows-down regressive changes in testes during aging.

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