Vasa nervorum in rat major pelvic ganglion are innervated by nitrergic nerve fibers

Karl A. Beetson, Stephanie F. Smith, Asif Muneer, Norman E. Cameron, Mary A. Cotter, Selim Cellek

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2 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: The vasa nervorum comprises a network of small diameter blood vessels that provide blood supply to nerves and ganglia. The cell bodies of autonomic nerves innervating the urogenital organs are housed in the major pelvic ganglia (MPG) in rats. The vasa nervorum of rat MPG have not been characterized previously, and it is not known whether these blood vessels are innervated by neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS) containing nitrergic nerves. Aim: To characterize the blood vessels in and around the rat MPG and to assess their nitrergic innervation. Main Outcome Measures: Characterization of small blood vessels in and around the rat MPG and expression of nNOS in nerve fibers around those blood vessels. Methods: MPG were obtained from healthy Sprague Dawley rats, fixed in paraformaldehyde, frozen and sectioned using a cryostat. The blood vessels and their nitrergic innervation were assessed with immunohistochemistry using antibodies against alpha-smooth muscle actin (smooth muscle marker), CD31 (endothelial marker), collagen IV (basal membrane marker) and nNOS. The immunofluorescence was imaged using a laser scanning confocal microscope. Results: The neuronal cell bodies were contained within a capsule in the MPG. Blood vessels were observed within the capsule of the MPG as well as outside the capsule. The blood vessels inside the capsule were CD31-positive capillaries with no smooth muscle staining. Outside the capsule capillaries, arterioles and venules were observed. The extra-capsular arterioles and venules, but not the capillaries were innervated by nNOS-positive nerve fibers. Conclusions: This study, to our knowledge, is the first to demonstrate the blood vessel distribution pattern and their nitrergic innervation in the rat MPG. While similar studies in human pelvic plexus are warranted, these results suggest that the blood flow in the MPG may be regulated by nitrergic nerve fibers and reveal a reciprocal relationship between nerves and blood vessels. Beetson KA, Smith SF, Muneer A, Cameron NE, Cotter MA, and Cellek S. Vasa nervorum in rat major pelvic ganglion are innervated by nitrergic nerve fibers. J Sex Med 2013;10:2967-2974.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2967-2974
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Sexual Medicine
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Autonomic
  • Autonomic Nerves
  • Erectile Dysfunction
  • Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms
  • Nitrergic
  • Nitric Oxide
  • nNOS
  • Urogenital

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