The changes in neuronal nitric oxide synthases (nNOS) in the dorsal penile nerves (DPNs) are consistent with cavernous nerve (CN) injury in rat models. However, the anatomical relationship and morphological changes between the minor branches of the DPNs and the CNs after injury have never been clearly explored. There were forty 12 week old male Sprague-Dawley rats receiving bilateral cavernous nerve injury (BCNI). Erectile function of intracavernous pressure and mean arterial pressure were measured. The histology and ultrastructure with H&E stain, Masson's trichrome stain and immunohistochemical stains were applied on the examination of CNs and DPNs. We demonstrated communicating nerve branches between the DPNs and the CNs in rats. The greatest damage and lowest erectile function were seen in the 14th day and partially recovered in the 28th day after BCNI. The nNOS positive DPN minor branches' number was significantly correlated with erectile function. The sub-analysis of the number of nNOS positive DPN minor branches also matched with the time course of the erectile function after BCNI. We suggest the regeneration of the DPNs minor branches would ameliorate the erectile function in BCNI rats.
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