Background & aims: Portal hypertension is associated with arterial hypotension and vascular hypocontractility, which persists despite elevated plasma levels of vasoconstrictors. We investigated the role of the RhoA/Rho-kinase pathway in vascular smooth muscle hypocontractility of rats with secondary biliary cirrhosis.
Methods: Aortic expressions of RhoA and Rho-kinase were analyzed in sham-operated and BDL rats by reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and immunoblots. Activation of aortic RhoA was examined by pull down of guanosine triphosphate (GTP)-RhoA and membrane translocation of RhoA. Rho-kinase activity was assessed as phosphorylation of its substrate, moesin. Contractility of isolated aortic rings was determined myographically. The hemodynamic effect of the Rho-kinase inhibitor (R)-(+)-trans-N-(4-pyridyl)-4-(1-aminoethyl)-cyclohexanecarboxamide (Y-27632) was determined in vivo by measuring changes in mean arterial pressure and systemic vascular resistance (SVR) (microspheres).
Results: Contraction of aortic rings from BDL rats was impaired in response to the alpha(1)-adrenergic receptor agonist methoxamine but not to high molar KCl. Aortic expression of RhoA was unchanged in cirrhotic rats, whereas Rho-kinase was down-regulated posttranscriptionally. Methoxamine-induced activation of RhoA as well as basal and methoxamine-induced phosphorylation of moesin were strongly reduced in aortas from cirrhotic rats. Aortic rings from cirrhotic rats precontracted with methoxamine showed an increased sensitivity to relaxation with Y-27632. The drop in SVR induced by Y-27632 was larger in cirrhotic rats than in sham-operated rats.
Conclusions: An impaired vascular activation of RhoA and a down-regulation of Rho-kinase might contribute to vasodilation and vascular hypocontractility in BDL-induced cirrhosis.