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Volume 4, Pages 279-290
Research Article

The Role of Oxygen Tension in Penile Erection and Its Relationship to Erectile Dysfunction

1Department of Urology; Mayo Clinic and Foundation, and Mayo Medical School, Rochester, Minnesota 55905, USA
2Departments of Urology and Physiology, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts 02118, USA

Academic Editor: Anthony Atala

Copyright © 2004 Jong-Kwan Park et al.


The corpus cavernosum of the penis is one of the few vascular beds in which there is a change in oxygen tension with function (blood PO2 25-40mm Hg in the flaccid state, and 90-100mm Hg in the erect state). This change in oxygen tension exposes the components of the corpus cavernosum to a variety of cytokines, humoral, vasoactive, and growth factors which may affect the structure and function of the endothelial cells, smooth muscle cells, neurons and extracellular matrix. Among these cell types, endothelial cells are the first line of defense to blood-borne stress and can affect the underlying smooth muscle via paracrine mechanisms. Impotence is defined as the inability to obtain or sustain an erection sufficient for vaginal penetration and can result from a variety of pathological conditions, vascular disease, endocrine disease, neurological disease, and psychogenic disorders. The penis is a vascular organ and as such is susceptible to the effects of vascular diseases. This review will discuss the basic etiology of erection and vasculogenic erectile dysfunction and explore the role oxygen tension in regulating various cellular and humoral factors as well as trabecular structure and function.