By using a selective ROCK inhibitor Y-27632, the role of Rho-ROCK signaling in the function of hepatic stellate cells in culture was studied. Stellate cells maintained the "star-like" configuration of the quiescent stage in the presence of Y-27632, while the expression of smooth muscle alpha-actin and PDGF receptor beta was not affected by the agent. Serum-stimulated migration of the cells was significantly suppressed by Y-27632. The contraction of stellate cells induced by 5 nM endothelin-1 was attenuated by the agent in a dose-dependent manner. Formation of F-actin stress fibers and phosphorylation of myosin light chain was apparently reduced by Y-27632 even under the stimulation with endothelin-1. On the other hand, ex vivo liver perfusion experiment revealed that endothelin-1 (2 nM)-induced increase of portal vein constriction was almost completely inhibited by 20 microM Y-27632 with a concomitant improvement of hepatocyte degeneration. These results suggest that ROCK is one of the key regulators of stellate cell motility and that the clinical application of ROCK inhibitors such as Y-27632 should be considered in the reduction of portal hypertension in liver fibrosis and cirrhosis.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.