Animal models of pulmonary hypertension: Rho kinase inhibition

Laboratory of Genetics, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, CA, USA.
Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology (Impact Factor: 2.27). 06/2012; 109(3):67-75. DOI: 10.1016/j.pbiomolbio.2012.05.009
Source: PubMed


Pulmonary Hypertension is a terminology encompassing a range of etiologically different pulmonary vascular diseases. The most common is that termed pulmonary arterial hypertension or PAH; a rare but often fatal disease characterized by a mean pulmonary arterial pressure of >25 mmHg. PAH is associated with a complex etiology highlighted by core characteristics of increased pulmonary vascular resistance and elevation of mean pulmonary artery pressure. When sustained, pulmonary vascular remodeling occurs and eventually patients pass away due to right heart failure. Hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction is an early event occurring in pulmonary hypertension due to chronic exposure to hypoxia. While the underlying mechanisms of hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction may be controversial, a role for RhoA/Rho kinase mediated regulation of intracellular Ca(2+) has been recently identified. Further study suggests that RhoA may have an integral role in other pathophysiological processes such as cell proliferation and migration occurring in all forms of PH. Indeed Rho proteins are known to play essential roles in actin cytoskeleton organization in all eukaryotic cells and thus Rho and Rho-GTPases are implicated in fundamental cellular processes such as cellular proliferation, migration, adhesion, apoptosis and gene expression. This review focuses on providing an overview of the role of RhoA/Rho kinase in currently available animal models of pulmonary hypertension.

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    ABSTRACT: Pulmonary hypertension is a complex, progressive condition arising from a variety of genetic and pathogenic causes. Patients present with a spectrum of histologic and pathophysiological features, likely reflecting the diversity in underlying pathogenesis. It is widely recognized that structural alterations in the vascular wall contribute to all forms of pulmonary hypertension. Features characteristic of the remodeled vasculature in patients with pulmonary hypertension include increased stiffening of the elastic proximal pulmonary arteries, thickening of the intimal and/or medial layer of muscular arteries, development of vaso-occlusive lesions, and the appearance of cells expressing smooth muscle-specific markers in normally non-muscular small diameter vessels, resulting from proliferation and migration of pulmonary arterial smooth muscle cells and cellular transdifferentiation. The development of several animal models of pulmonary hypertension has provided the means to explore the mechanistic underpinnings of pulmonary vascular remodeling, although none of the experimental models currently used entirely replicates the pulmonary arterial hypertension observed in patients. Herein, we provide an overview of the histological abnormalities observed in humans with pulmonary hypertension and in preclinical models and discuss insights gained regarding several key signaling pathways contributing to the remodeling process. In particular, we will focus on the roles of ion homeostasis, endothelin-1, serotonin, bone morphogenetic proteins, Rho kinase, and hypoxia-inducible factor 1 in pulmonary arterial smooth muscle and endothelial cells, highlighting areas of cross-talk between these pathways and potentials for therapeutic targeting.
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    ABSTRACT: Rho kinase (ROCK) is a major downstream effector of the small GTPase RhoA. ROCK family, consisting of ROCK1 and ROCK2, plays central roles in the organization of actin cytoskeleton and is involved in a wide range of fundamental cellular functions such as contraction, adhesion, migration, proliferation, and apoptosis. Due to the discovery of effective inhibitors such as fasudil and Y27632, the biological roles of ROCK have been extensively explored with particular attention on the cardiovascular system. In many preclinical models of cardiovascular diseases including vasospasm, arteriosclerosis, hypertension, pulmonary hypertension, stroke, ischemia-reperfusion injury and heart failure, ROCK inhibitors have shown a remarkable efficacy in reducing vascular smooth muscle cell hypercontraction, endothelial dysfunction, inflammatory cell recruitment, vascular remodeling, and cardiac remodeling. Moreover, fasudil has been used in the clinical trials of several cardiovascular diseases. The continuing utilization of available pharmacological inhibitors and the development of more potent or isoform-selective inhibitors in ROCK signaling research and in treating human diseases are escalating. In this review, we discuss the recent molecular, cellular, animal and clinical studies with a focus on the current understanding of ROCK signaling in cardiovascular physiology and diseases. We particularly note that emerging evidence suggests that selective targeting ROCK isoform based on the disease pathophysiology may represent a novel therapeutic approach for the disease treatment including cardiovascular diseases.
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