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Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2010 Dec;299(6):H1854-64. doi: 10.1152/ajpheart.00595.2010. Epub 2010 Oct 1.

Rescue treatment with a Rho-kinase inhibitor normalizes right ventricular function and reverses remodeling in juvenile rats with chronic pulmonary hypertension.

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Clinical Integrative Biology, Sunnybrook Research Institute, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Chronic pulmonary hypertension in infancy and childhood is characterized by a fixed and progressive increase in pulmonary arterial pressure and resistance, pulmonary arterial remodeling, and right ventricular hypertrophy and systolic dysfunction. These abnormalities are replicated in neonatal rats chronically exposed to hypoxia from birth in which increased activity of Rho-kinase (ROCK) is critical to injury, as evidenced by preventive effects of ROCK inhibitors. Our objective in the present study was to examine the reversing effects of a late or rescue approach to treatment with a ROCK inhibitor on the pulmonary and cardiac manifestations of established chronic hypoxic pulmonary hypertension. Rat pups were exposed to air or hypoxia (13% O(2)) from postnatal day 1 and were treated with Y-27632 (15 mg/kg) or saline vehicle by twice daily subcutaneous injection commencing on day 14, for up to 7 days. Treatment with Y-27632 significantly attenuated right ventricular hypertrophy, reversed arterial wall remodeling, and completely normalized right ventricular systolic function in hypoxia-exposed animals. Reversal of arterial wall remodeling was accompanied by increased apoptosis and attenuated content of endothelin (ET)-1 and ET(A) receptors. Treatment of primary cultured juvenile rat pulmonary artery smooth muscle cells with Y-27632 attenuated serum-stimulated ROCK activity and proliferation and increased apoptosis. Smooth muscle apoptosis was also induced by short interfering RNA-mediated knockdown of ROCK-II, but not of ROCK-I. We conclude that sustained rescue treatment with a ROCK inhibitor reversed both the hemodynamic and structural abnormalities of chronic hypoxic pulmonary hypertension in juvenile rats and normalized right ventricular systolic function. Attenuated expression and activity of ET-1 and its A-type receptor on pulmonary arterial smooth muscle was a likely contributor to the stimulatory effects of ROCK inhibition on apoptosis. In addition, our data suggest that ROCK-II may be dominant in enhancing survival of pulmonary arterial smooth muscle.

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No conflicts of interest, financial or otherwise, are declared by the author(s).

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