Spinal control of erection by glutamate in rats

Olivier Rampin*, Régine Monnerie, Nathalie Jérôme, Kevin McKenna, Yves Maurin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The lumbosacral spinal network controlling penile erection is activated by information from peripheral and supraspinal origins. We tested the hypothesis that glutamate, released by sensory afferents from the genitals, activates this proerectile network. In anesthetized intact and T8 spinalized (i.e., freed from supraspinal inhibition) male rats, the parameters of electrical stimulation of the dorsal penile nerve (DPN) that elicited intracavernous pressure (ICP) rises were determined. In T8 spinalized rats, DPN stimulations were applied in the presence of D(-)-2-amino-5-phosphonopentanoic acid (D-AP5), a competitive NMDA receptor antagonist, or of 2,3-dioxo-6-nitro-1,2,3,4-tetrahydrobenzo[f]quinoxaline-7-sulphonamide (NBQX), an AMPA-kainate receptor antagonist, injected intrathecally at the lumbosacral level. Both antagonists, alone or in combination, dose dependently decreased the ICP rise and increased its latency. In conscious rats, reflexive erections were depressed by D-AP5 and NBQX, as revealed by an increased latency of the first erection and by decreases of the number of rats displaying erections, of the number of erection clusters and of the number of erections per cluster. In anesthetized rats, the combined administration of the glutamatergic agonists NMDA and AMPA elicited ICP rises in the absence of DPN stimulation. In contrast, both agonists moderately decreased the ICP rise elicited by DPN stimulation but did not affect its latency. These results support our hypothesis that glutamate, released on stimulation of the genitals and acting at AMPA and NMDA receptors, is a potent activator of the spinal proerectile network.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)R710-R718
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number4 55-4
StatePublished - Apr 2004


  • Lumbosacral spinal cord
  • Sexual reflexes
  • Urogenital

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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