Targeting the shift from M1 to M2 macrophages in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis mice treated with fasudil

PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e54841. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0054841. Epub 2013 Feb 13.


We observed the therapeutic effect of Fasudil and explored its mechanisms in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), an animal model of multiple sclerosis (MS). Fasudil, a selective Rho kinase (ROCK) inhibitor, was injected intraperitoneally at 40 mg/kg/d in early and late stages of EAE induction. Fasudil ameliorated the clinical severity of EAE at different stages, and decreased the expression of ROCK-II in spleen, accompanied by an improvement in demyelination and inhibition of inflammatory cells. Fasudil mainly inhibited CD4(+)IL-17(+) T cells in early treatment, but also elevated CD4(+)IL-10(+) regulatory T cells and IL-10 production in late treatment. The treatment of Fasudil shifted inflammatory M1 to anti-inflammatory M2 macrophages in both early and late treatment, being shown by inhibiting CD16/32, iNOS, IL-12, TLR4 and CD40 and increasing CD206, Arg-1, IL-10 and CD14 in spleen. By using Western blot and immunohistochemistry, iNOS and Arg-1, as two most specific markers for M1 and M2, was inhibited or induced in splenic macrophages and spinal cords of EAE mice treated with Fasudil. In vitro experiments also indicate that Fasudil shifts M1 to M2 phenotype, which does not require the participation or auxiliary of other cells. The polarization of M2 macrophages was associated with the decrease of inflammatory cytokine IL-1β, TNF-α and MCP-1. These results demonstrate that Fasudil has therapeutic potential in EAE possibly through inducing the polarization of M2 macrophages and inhibiting inflammatory responses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 1-(5-Isoquinolinesulfonyl)-2-Methylpiperazine / analogs & derivatives*
  • 1-(5-Isoquinolinesulfonyl)-2-Methylpiperazine / pharmacology
  • 1-(5-Isoquinolinesulfonyl)-2-Methylpiperazine / therapeutic use
  • Animals
  • Encephalomyelitis, Autoimmune, Experimental / drug therapy*
  • Encephalomyelitis, Autoimmune, Experimental / immunology
  • Encephalomyelitis, Autoimmune, Experimental / metabolism
  • Female
  • Interleukin-10 / metabolism
  • Macrophages / drug effects*
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type II / metabolism
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Spleen / drug effects
  • Spleen / immunology
  • Spleen / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes / drug effects
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism
  • rho-Associated Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • rho-Associated Kinases / metabolism


  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Interleukin-10
  • 1-(5-Isoquinolinesulfonyl)-2-Methylpiperazine
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type II
  • rho-Associated Kinases
  • fasudil

Grant support

This work was supported by grant from National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 81070957, No. 30972715 and No. 81070956). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.