The present study was conducted to investigate the reactivity of the corpus cavernosum smooth muscle after unilateral cavernous nerve neurotomy in rabbits. Rabbits (18) were randomly divided into two groups: sham-operated (n = 9) and those subjected to unilateral neurotomy of a 5-mm segment of the cavernous nerve (n = 9). The reactivity of the corpus cavernosum tissue from the neurotomized and sham groups was studied in organ chambers at 4 weeks postoperation. In the neurotomized group, endothelium-dependent relaxation of the corpus cavernosum smooth muscle to carbachol was significantly increased when compared to the sham group. In addition, the sensitivity (i.e., pD(2)) of neurotomized strips to carbachol was also increased when compared to controls. Electrical field stimulation-induced neurogenic relaxation was significantly reduced in the neurotomized group, Relaxation to the nitric oxide (NO) donor sodium nitroprusside and to papaverine was similar in the cavernosal tissue of both groups. There Was no change in agonist potency. Furthermore, neurotomy had no effect on KCl-induced contractile responses. When tissue contraction Was induced with phenylephrine to study relaxation to various stimuli, the tension induced was similar in the neurotomized and the sham control groups. We conclude that unilateral, chronic cavernous nerve neurotomy causes significant functional changes to the penile erectile tissue of rabbits, which may contribute to the development of impotence.