Aims: The RhoA/ROCK pathway controls crucial biological processes involved in cardiovascular pathophysiology, such as cytoskeleton dynamics, vascular smooth muscle contraction, and inflammation. In this work, we tested whether Rho kinase inhibition would beneficially impact cardiac cytoskeleton organization, bioenergetics, and autophagy in experimental endotoxemia induced by lipopolysaccharides (LPSs) in mice.
Results: Fasudil, a potent ROCK inhibitor, prevented LPS-induced cardiac inflammation, oxidative stress, cytoskeleton disarray, and mitochondrial injury. ROCK inhibition prevented phosphorylation of cofilin and dynamin-related protein-1, which promotes stabilization-polymerization of F-actin and mediates mitochondrial fission, respectively. Pyr1, which exclusively alters actin dynamics, prevented LPS-induced myocardial dysfunction, suggesting that beneficial impact of ROCK inhibition was not mainly related to pleiotropic effects of fasudil on cardiac inflammation and oxidative stress. Fasudil reduced mitochondrial fragmentation, stimulated initiation of autophagy, and elicited cardioprotection in LPS heart. Mdivi-1, a potent mitochondria fission inhibitor, converted cardioprotective autophagy to an inefficient form due to cargo loading failure in which autophagic vacuoles fail to trap cytosolic cargo, despite their formation at enhanced rates and lysosomal elimination.
Innovation: In experimental endotoxemia, cardioprotection by RhoA/ROCK inhibition may be related to changes in actin cytoskeleton reorganization and mitochondrial homeostasis. Improvement of LPS-induced mitochondrial dysfunction by fasudil was attributed to inhibition of ROCK-dependent Drp1 phosphorylation and activation of autophagic processes that can limit mitochondrial fragmentation and enhance degradation of damaged mitochondria, respectively.
Conclusion: Fasudil prevented LPS-induced heart oxidative stress, abnormal F-actin distribution, and oxidative phosphorylation, which concur to improve cardiac contractile and bioenergetic function. We suggest that fasudil may represent a valuable therapy for patients with sepsis.