Effects of the combined administration of propranolol plus sorafenib on portal hypertension in cirrhotic rats

Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2012 May 15;302(10):G1191-8. doi: 10.1152/ajpgi.00252.2011. Epub 2012 Mar 8.


Low doses of sorafenib have been shown to decrease portal pressure (PP), portal-systemic shunts, and liver fibrosis in cirrhotic rats. Nonselective beta blockers (NSBB) are the only drugs recommended for the treatment of portal hypertension. The aim of our study was to explore whether the combination of propranolol and sorafenib might show an additive effect reducing PP in cirrhotic rats. Groups of common bile duct-ligated cirrhotic rats (CBDL) and sham-operated control rats were treated by gavage with vehicle, propranolol (30 mg·kg(-1)·day(-1)), sorafenib (1 mg·kg(-1)·day(-1)), or propranolol+sorafenib. Treatment began 2 wk after the CBDL or sham operation. Hemodynamic evaluation was performed after 2 wk of treatment. In cirrhotic rats, propranolol and sorafenib produced a significant (P < 0.001) and similar reduction in PP (-19 and -15%, respectively). This was achieved through different mechanisms: whereas propranolol decreased PP by reducing portal blood flow (-35%; P = 0.03), sorafenib decreased PP without decreasing portal flow indicating decreased hepatic resistance. After propranolol+sorafenib, the fall in PP was significantly greater (-30%; P < 0.001) than with either drug alone, demonstrating an additive effect. However, the reduction in portal flow (-39%) under combined therapy was not significantly greater than after propranolol alone. Sorafenib, alone or in combination with propranolol, produced significant reduction in portal-systemic shunting (-25 and -33%, respectively), splanchnic vascularization (-37 and -41%, respectively), liver fibrosis (38%), and hepatic neovascularization (-42 and -51%, respectively). These effects were not observed after propranolol alone. In conclusion, the combination of propranolol+sorafenib causes a greater reduction in PP than either drug alone and decreases markedly the extent of portal-systemic shunting, splanchnic and hepatic neovascularization, and liver fibrosis, suggesting that this drug combination is a potentially useful strategy in the treatment of portal hypertension.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antihypertensive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Benzenesulfonates / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Hypertension, Portal / drug therapy*
  • Hypertension, Portal / physiopathology
  • Liver Cirrhosis, Experimental / drug therapy
  • Liver Cirrhosis, Experimental / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Niacinamide / analogs & derivatives
  • Phenylurea Compounds
  • Propranolol / therapeutic use*
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Pyridines / therapeutic use*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sorafenib


  • Antihypertensive Agents
  • Benzenesulfonates
  • Phenylurea Compounds
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Pyridines
  • Niacinamide
  • Propranolol
  • Sorafenib