Proceedings of The Physiological Society

Europhysiology 2018 (London, UK) (2018) Proc Physiol Soc 41, PCA350

Poster Communications

Perivascular Cells Mediate Penile Erection

E. Guimaraes1, D. O. Dias1, D. Holl1, S. Savant1, E. Vågesjö2, J. Charbord1, O. Andersson1, M. Phillipson2, C. Göritz1

1. Department of Cell and Molecular Biology, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden. 2. Department of Medical Cell Biology, Division of Integrative Physiology, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden.


The penis presents a specialized vascular bed, which in addition to endothelial and smooth muscle cells contains a large number of perivascular cells of unknown function. Erection is dependent on the cross talk among these cells, leading to increased blood inflow and reduced outflow due to a veno-occlusive system and resulting in expansion of the corpora cavernosa. We discovered that the mouse penis contains a specific, proliferative, subpopulation of perivascular cells that express the sodium-dependent glutamate/aspartate transporter Slc1a3. Experimentally induced increase in the number of Slc1a3+ cells, by cell specific deletion of the transcription factor Rbp-Jk, resulted in non-sexually stimulated long-lasting erections. Laser speckle contrast imaging of blood flow showed that expansion in the number of Slc1a3+ cells lead to exacerbated penile blood flow response to vasodilators such as acetylcholine and reduced response to the vasoconstrictor phenylephrine, a selective alpha1 adrenergic receptor agonist. Cell specific light-induced optogenetic stimulation of Slc1a3+ cells increased penile blood flow, which was prevented by pre-treatment with nisoxetine, an inhibitor of the norepinephrine transporter Slc6a2. In aged or diabetic mice, both conditions associated with dysfunctional penile erection, a reduced number of Slc1a3+ perivascular cells and altered penile blood perfusion were observed. In conclusion, the mouse penis contains a Slc1a3+ perivascular cell population that mediates erection through modulation of vasodilation.

Where applicable, experiments conform with Society ethical requirements