Background: The small GTPase Rho is involved in cell-to-substratum adhesion and cell contraction. These actions of Rho mediated by downstream Rho effectors such as Rho-associated coiled-coil forming protein kinase (ROCK) may be partly responsible for the progression of renal interstitial fibrosis.
Methods: The anti-fibrosis effects of Y-27632, a specific ROCK inhibitor, were studied both in vivo (unilateral ureteral obstruction; UUO) and in vitro. To investigate the therapeutic efficacy of Y-27632 in UUO kidneys, smooth muscle alpha actin (SMalphaA) expression, macrophage infiltration and fibrosis in the obstructed kidneys were studied. SMalphaA, transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta), alpha1 (I) collagen, osteopontin, macrophage chemoattractant peptide-1 (MCP-1), and intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1) gene expression were examined by Northern blotting. To elucidate the mechanism linking the Rho-ROCK pathway with renal fibrosis, the effects of Y-27632 on in vitro cell proliferation and cell migration were studied.
Results: In vivo analysis showed that Y-27632 suppressed SMalphaA expression, macrophage infiltration and interstitial fibrosis, and that Y-27632 suppressed SMalphaA, TGF-beta and alpha1 (I) collagen mRNA expression. In vitro analysis showed that Y-27632 did not suppress proliferation of renal fibroblasts but suppressed migration of macrophages.
Conclusions: The Rho-ROCK system may play an important role in the development of tissue fibrosis, and the Rho-ROCK signaling pathway may be a new therapeutic target for preventing interstitial fibrosis in progressive renal disease.