Rho-Kinase activity is increased in cardiovascular diseases and in patients with cardiovascular risk factors. However, it is not known whether inhibition of Rho-kinase could lead to cardiovascular protection and, if so, by what mechanism.
Methods and Results
In human endothelial cells, the Rho-kinase inhibitor, hydroxyfasudil (HF) (1 to 100 μmol/L), increased Akt serine-473 phosphorylation within 15 minutes, leading to a 2.2-fold and 4.0-fold increase in Akt kinase activity and nitric oxide (NO) release, respectively. Activation of Akt and eNOS by HF was completely blocked by the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3-kinase) inhibitor, LY294002 (10 μmol/L). To determine the physiological relevance of this pathway, we used 2 models of ischemia-reperfusion (I/R) injury. Acute administration of fasudil (10 mg/kg, intraperitoneal, 1 hour before ischemia) decreased leukocyte recruitment and adhesion to the mesenteric endothelium after I/R injury in wild-type but not eNOS−/− mice. Similarly, treatment with fasudil decreased myocardial infarct size by 38% in rats subjected to transient coronary artery occlusion. Cotreatment with 2 PI3-kinase inhibitors, wortmannin and LY294002, or the eNOS inhibitor, L-NAME, blocked the cardiovascular protective effects of fasudil.
Inhibition of Rho-kinase leads to the activation of the PI3-kinase/Akt/eNOS pathway and cardiovascular protection. These findings suggest that Rho-kinase may play an important role in mediating the inflammatory response to I/R injury.