Neurotrophic factors in the rat penis

A. E. Te, R. P. Santarosa, H. P. Koo, R. Buttyan, L. A. Greene, S. A. Kaplan, C. A. Olsson, R. Shabsigh

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26 Scopus citations


An intact nerve supply is essential for normal erectile function. We have undertaken a study to examine the presence and synthesis of growth factors of the penis that support neural function. Extracts were obtained from deskinned penises of Sprague-Dawley rats, aged 3, 6 and 10 weeks, representing prepubertal, pubertal and postpubertal states. Penile extracts were subjected to Northern blot analysis to evaluate expression of nerve growth factor-β (β-NGF)-mRNA, PC-12 bioassay to quantitate the nerve growth promoting activity and immunoassay to detect the amount of β-NGF protein. These initial experiments showed a disproportionately abundant level of nerve growth promoting activity as compared with the levels detected with the immunoassay. The PC-12 bioassay is sensitive to both β-NGF and fibroblast growth factors (FGFs). To further investigate these findings, the bioassay was conducted again after heparin chromatography, with β-NGF receptor blockade, or with the addition of anti-β-NGF, anti-basic-FGF, or anti- acidic-FGF. These studies confirmed that the abundant nerve growth promoting activity in the rat penis is due largely to basic FGF. In conclusion, the neurotrophin NGF is expressed in the rat penis at levels consistent with its expression in other peripheral tissues. Basic-FGF, on the other hand, has been detected at levels far in excess of NGF. Since erectile function is dependent on the integrity of the vascular structure and its intact innervation and since basic FGF presents as an abundant penile growth factor with both angiogenic and neurotrophic activities, basic FGF might play a significant role in erectile physiology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2167-2172
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Urology
Issue number6 I
StatePublished - 1994
Externally publishedYes


  • fibroblast growth factor-basic
  • nerve growth factors
  • penile erection


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