Low Androgen Induced Penile Maldevelopment Involves Altered Gene Expression of Biomarkers of Smooth Muscle Differentiation and a Key Enzyme Regulating Cavernous Smooth Muscle Cell Tone

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We determined the effects of low androgens in the neonatal period on biomarkers of smooth muscle cell differentiation, Myh11 and Acta2, and on Pde5A expression in the penis.

Materials and Methods:

One-day-old pups were treated daily with the gonadotropin-releasing hormone antagonist antide with or without dihydrotestosterone for 1 to 6 days. Tissues were collected at age day 7 and at adulthood at age 120 days. Penes were examined by quantitative reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction, Western blot and immunohistochemistry. Testes were assayed for the intratesticular testosterone and steroidogenic enzymes Cyp17α1 and StAR.


Gonadotropin-releasing hormone antagonist exposure suppressed the neonatal testicular testosterone surge 70% to 80%. Quantitative reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction revealed 80% to 90% reductions in Cyp17α1 and StAR protein, and 40% to 60% reductions in Myh11 and ACTA2 as a result of gonadotropin-releasing hormone antagonist compared to controls. Dihydrotestosterone co-administration mitigated these decreases. Western blot confirmed the Myh11 decrease at the protein level. Immunohistochemistry of Acta2 confirmed cavernous smooth muscle cell loss at the tissue level. Also, gonadotropin-releasing hormone antagonist exposure decreased Pde5a expression and dihydrotestosterone co-administration mitigated the decrease. Comparison of data between 2 parts of the penis body (corpora cavernosa and corpus spongiosum) showed that antagonist induced decreases in Myh11, Acta2 and Pde5a expression occurred only in the corpora cavernosa, implying that the latter is the target site of low androgen action.


As evidenced by gonadotropin-releasing hormone antagonist induced suppression of the neonatal testosterone surge and reduced steroidogenesis, low androgens in the neonatal period altered gene expression of biomarkers of smooth muscle cell differentiation. This led to loss of cavernous smooth muscle cells and consequently to penile maldevelopment.

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