Rapamycin Suppresses Penile NADPH Oxidase Activity to Preserve Erectile Function in Mice Fed a Western Diet


The mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) is a nutrient-sensitive cellular signaling kinase that has been implicated in the excess production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). NADPH oxidase-derived ROS have been implicated in erectile dysfunction pathogenesis.

The objective of this study was to determine if mTOR is an activator of NADPH oxidase in the penis and to determine the functional relevance of this pathway in a translationally relevant model of diet induced erectile dysfunction. Male mice were fed a control diet or a high-fat, high-sucroseWestern style diet (WD) for 12 weeks and treated with vehicle or rapamycin for the final 4 weeks of the dietary intervention.

Following the intervention, erectile function was assessed by cavernous nervestimulated intracavernous pressure measurement, in vivo ROS production was measured in the penis using a microdialysis approach, and relative protein contents from the corpus cavernosum were determined by Western blot. Erectile function was impaired in vehicle treated WD-mice and was preserved in rapamycin treated WD-mice.

Penile NADPH oxidase-mediated ROS were elevated in WD-mice and suppressed by rapamycin treatment. Western blot analysis suggests mTOR activation with WD by increased active site phosphorylation of mTOR and p70S6K, and increased expression of NADPH oxidase subunits, all of which were suppressed by rapamycin.

These data suggest that mTOR is an upstream mediator of NADPH oxidase in the corpus cavernosum in response to a chronic Western diet, which has an adverse effect on erectile function.

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