Potassium outward currents in freshly dissociated rabbit corpus cavernosum myocytes

John Malysz, Simon J. Gibbons, Steven M. Miller, Matthew Gettman, Ajay Nehra, Joseph H. Szurszewski, Gianrico Farrugia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Purpose: Cavernous smooth muscle cells have a key role in the control of penile erection and detumescence. In this study the types of smooth muscle cells and currents present in isolated rabbit corpus cavernosum myocytes were characterized. Materials and Methods: Immunohistochemical methods were used to identify cavernous smooth muscle cells. Currents were recorded from freshly dissociated myocytes using the whole cell and amphotericin perforated patch clamp techniques. Results: Cavernous myocytes were identified by α-smooth muscle actin and smooth muscle myosin immunoreactivity. Based on electrical properties at least 2 types of myocytes were present. Type I cells showed more depolarized membrane potentials, lower capacitance, higher input resistance and increased current densities at positive potentials than type II cells. In types I and II cells at voltages positive to 30 mV, maxi K+ channel (Ca2+ activated large conductance K+ channel or BK) blockade with iberiotoxin or charybdotoxin reduced outward currents by approximately 40% to 80% at 80 mV. Maxi K+ channel blocking did not affect cell membrane potential. Type II cells showed delayed rectifier K+ channel-type outward currents that were not detected in type I cells. Delayed rectifier K+ channel-type currents were resistant to iberiotoxin or charybdotoxin, activated at approximately -50 to -40 mV. and inactivated weakly. Conclusions: The data suggest that cavernous smooth muscle cells are heterogeneous with at least 2 subtypes identified based on membrane potential, capacitance, input resistance, current density and delayed rectifier K+ channel expression. The activation threshold suggests that delayed rectifier K+ channels are open at the resting membrane potential and, therefore, contribute to control and regulation of the cavernous myocyte excitability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1167-1177
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Urology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2001


  • Electric stimulation
  • Muscle
  • Penile erection
  • Penis
  • Rabbits
  • Smooth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Urology


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