Background: Because of structural alterations in the corpus cavernosum after radical prostatectomy (RP), post-RP erectile dysfunction remains a very difficult condition to treat. We aimed to determine if the combined administration of a Jun-amino terminal kinase (JNK) inhibitor and hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) in the immediate post-injury period would restore erectile function by antiapoptotic and pro-regenerative effects through the rectification of molecular pathways related to the structural integrity of the penis in a rat model of bilateral cavernosal nerve crush injury (CNCI). Methods: A total of 70 rats were divided into five groups: Sham surgery (S), CNCI (I), and once-daily intraperitoneal administration of 10.0 mg/kg JNK inhibitor + twice-weekly intracavernosal administration of low-dose (2.1 μg), medium-dose (4.2 μg), or high-dose (8.4 μg) HGF (I + J + LH or I + J + MH or I + J + HH, respectively) in the immediate post-injury period. Erectile responses to electrostimulation (1.0, 3.0, and 5.0 V), histological staining, caspase-3 activity, and Western blotting were evaluated 9 days after surgery. Results: Group I showed lower intracavernosal pressure (ICP)/mean arterial pressure (MAP) after stimulation at each voltage, lower area under the curve (AUC)/MAP after stimulation at each voltage, less smooth muscle (SM) content, a lower SM/collagen ratio, higher caspase-3 activity, increased cJun phosphorylation, decreased protein expression of PECAM-1, decreased cMet phosphorylation, and decreased endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) phosphorylation compared to Group S. The SM content, SM/collagen ratio, protein expression of ICP/MAP, or AUC/MAP after stimulation at each voltage in Group I + J + LH were partially restored, despite the normalization of cJun phosphorylation and caspase-3 activity. The ICP/MAP, AUC/MAP, caspase-3 activity, SM content, protein expression of PECAM-1, cJun phosphorylation, cMet phosphorylation, and eNOS phosphorylation in both Groups I + J + MH and I + J + HH were restored to the levels observed in Group S, while the SM/collagen ratio was significantly improved but not completely normalized. Conclusions: Our data indicated that the combined administration of a JNK inhibitor and medium or high-dose HGF to nerve-injured rats in the immediate post-injury period after CNCI may restore erectile function to a level comparable to the normal level by suppressing cavernosal apoptosis and preserving the integrity of SM or endothelium via rectification of the cJun and cMet/eNOS pathways.
- erectile dysfunction