Objectives. To characterize endothelial cell-to-cell junctions in the sinusoids and microvasculature of the corpus cavernosum. Methods. Corporal tissue was obtained from 6 potent human subjects, cut into 5-μm cryosections, and double-labeled with consecutive applications of primary and secondary antibodies. Laser scanning confocal microscopy identified subcellular localization of endothelial anchoring and adhesion molecules. Fluorescence intensity was rated as strong, weak, or absent by two observers. Results. The cavernosal endothelial adherens junction was composed of vascular endothelial cadherin, alpha-catenin, plakoglobin, vinculin, and the regulatory proteins beta-catenin and ZO-1. Adherens junctions in sinusoids were elongated, redundant, and narrow versus short, dense, linear cell-to-cell contacts in small arterioles and venules. Vinculin expression along the basal interface of the endothelium and stroma was weak in the sinusoids and strong in the arterioles. Definite sinusoidal expression of CD31 and CD34 was noted. P-selectin was only expressed within the cavernosal microvessels. Conclusions. The regulatory and structural proteins extending from vascular endothelial cadherin provide immunohistochemical evidence of a role for adherens junctions in cavernosal endothelial barrier function and cellular homeostasis. The sinusoidal endothelium has a unique junctional phenotype consistent with its blood trapping function. Differential expression of functional proteins in sinusoidal and microvascular endothelium may reflect segmental variation in hemodynamic exposure to pressure, stretch, or flow.
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