The Role of Regulatory Proteins and S-nitrosylation of Endothelial Nitric Oxide Synthase in the Human Clitoris: Implications for Female Sexual Function

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Introduction.During female sexual arousal, clitoral blood flow is controlled by endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) and its product, nitric oxide (NO). The mechanisms regulating eNOS activity and NO bioavailability in the clitoris are largely unknown.Aim.To identify proteins involved in regulation of eNOS activity within the clitoris and to evaluate the effects of S-nitrosoglutathione reductase (GSNO-R) and eNOS nitrosylation/denitrosylation on clitoral blood flow.Methods.Immunohistochemistry for eNOS, caveolin-1 (Cav1), heat shock protein-90 (Hsp90), phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5), GSNO-R, and soluble guanylate cyclase (sGC) was performed on human and murine clitoral tissue. Western blot analysis was performed for eNOS, phosphorylated eNOS (phospho-eNOS, Ser1177), Cav1, Hsp90, sGC, PDE5, phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K), Akt (protein kinase B), and GSNO-R on protein from human clitoral tissue. A biotin switch assay was used to analyze the S-nitrosylation of eNOS, nNOS, and GSNO-R. Clitoral blood flow was measured in wild-type and GSNO-R-/- mice at baseline and during cavernous nerve electrical stimulation (CNES).Main Outcome Measures.Localization of eNOS regulatory proteins and clitoral blood flow.Results.eNOS and GSNO-R co-localized to the vascular endothelium and sinusoids of human clitoral tissue. Immunohistochemistry also localized Cav1 and Hsp90 to the endothelium and PDE5 and sGC to the trabecular smooth muscle. Expression of S-nitrosylated (SNO)-eNOS and SNO-GSNO-R was detected by biotin switch assays. Wild-type control mice exhibited increased clitoral blood flow with CNES whereas GSNO-R-/- animals failed to show an increase in blood flow.Conclusions.Several key eNOS regulatory proteins are present in the clitoral tissue in a cellular specific pattern. S-nitrosylation of eNOS may also represent a key regulatory mechanism governing eNOS activation/deactivation since mice deficient in GSNO-R failed to increase clitoral blood flow. Additional studies are necessary to define the role of S-nitrosylation in the genital vascular response and its subsequent impact on female sexual function. Oliver JL, Kavoussi PK, Smith RP, Woodson RI, Corbett ST, Costabile RA, Palmer LA, and Lysiak JJ. The role of regulatory proteins and s-nitrosylation of endothelial nitric oxide synthase in the human clitoris: Implications for female sexual function. J Sex Med 2014;11:1927–1935.

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