Effects of nicorandil on human isolated corpus cavernosum and cavernous artery

P. Hedlund, F. Holmquist, H. Hedlund, K. E. Andersson

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Nitric oxide (NO) released from nonadrenergic-noncholinergic (NANC) nerves seems to be a principal mediator of the relaxation of penile erectile tissue necessary for erection, and drugs acting by release of NO have been shown to produce erection when injected intracorporeally into impotent patients. By producing hyperpolarization, K+ channel openers are effective in relaxing isolated penile erectile tissue from rabbit and man, and can produce tumescence and erection when injected intracorporeally into animals. Nicorandil is classified as a K+ channel opener, but it also acts as a donor of NO. In the present study, the effects of nicorandil on isolated preparations from human corpus cavernosum (CC) and deep cavernous artery (Acc) were compared with those of cromakalim (K+ channel opener) and SIN-1 (NO donor). Nicorandil produced a concentration-dependent relaxation of CC and Acc preparations. The relaxations obtained at the highest nicorandil concentration used (10-4 M.) were 75 ± 3% and 66 ± 4% in CC preparations contracted by noradrenaline and endothelin-1, respectively. The corresponding effects in Acc preparations were 70 ± 14% and 73 ± 5%. Glibenclamide (blocking ATP-dependent K+ channels) significantly reduced the nicorandil- induced relaxation in CC, but not in Acc. Methylene blue (believed to block soluble guanylate cyclase) reduced nicorandil's relaxant effect in CC, although statistical significance was not obtained. N(G)-nitro-L-arginine 10-4 M. (NO synthase inhibitor) did not significantly influence the effect of nicorandil on precontracted preparations in either tissue. In CC preparations contracted by electrical field stimulation, nicorandil and cromakalim concentration dependently inhibited the responses. This effect was significantly counteracted by glibenclamide. It is concluded that nicorandil is effective in relaxing human CC chiefly by its K+ channel opening action, and to some extent by its ability to release NO. For nicorandil's relaxing effect on Acc, ATP dependent K+ channels seem to be of limited importance. If effective in impotent patients, the drug may represent a new, interesting approach to the treatment of erectile dysfunction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1107-1113
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Urology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1994


  • nitric oxide
  • penile erection
  • potassium channels

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Urology


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