Donor simvastatin treatment abolishes rat cardiac allograft ischemia/reperfusion injury and chronic rejection through microvascular protection.
ABSTRACT Ischemia/reperfusion injury may have deleterious short- and long-term consequences for cardiac allografts. The underlying mechanisms involve microvascular dysfunction that may culminate in primary graft failure or untreatable chronic rejection.
Here, we report that rat cardiac allograft ischemia/reperfusion injury resulted in profound microvascular dysfunction that was prevented by donor treatment with peroral single-dose simvastatin, a 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase and Rho GTPase inhibitor, 2 hours before graft procurement. During allograft preservation, donor simvastatin treatment inhibited microvascular endothelial cell and pericyte RhoA/Rho-associated protein kinase activation and endothelial cell-endothelial cell gap formation; decreased intragraft mRNA levels of hypoxia-inducible factor-1α, inducible nitric oxide synthase, and endothelin-1; and increased heme oxygenase-1. Donor, but not recipient, simvastatin treatment prevented ischemia/reperfusion injury-induced vascular leakage, leukocyte infiltration, the no-reflow phenomenon, and myocardial injury. The beneficial effects of simvastatin on vascular stability and the no-reflow phenomenon were abolished by concomitant nitric oxide synthase inhibition with N-nitro-l-arginine methyl ester and RhoA activation by geranylgeranyl pyrophosphate supplementation, respectively. In the chronic rejection model, donor simvastatin treatment inhibited cardiac allograft inflammation, transforming growth factor-β1 signaling, and myocardial fibrosis. In vitro, simvastatin inhibited transforming growth factor-β1-induced microvascular endothelial-to-mesenchymal transition.
Our results demonstrate that donor simvastatin treatment prevents microvascular endothelial cell and pericyte dysfunction, ischemia/reperfusion injury, and chronic rejection and suggest a novel, clinically feasible strategy to protect cardiac allografts.