The Rho-kinase inhibitor Y-27632 inhibits cholestasis-induced platelet interactions in the hepatic microcirculation.
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Bile duct obstruction is associated with hepatic accumulation of leukocytes and liver injury. Emerging data suggest that platelets may play an important role in tissue damage and inflammation. Herein, we characterized the platelet response in cholestatic liver injury and evaluated the role of Rho-kinase signaling. For this purpose, C57BL/6 mice were treated with the Rho-kinase inhibitor Y-27632 (10 mg/kg) and vehicle before undergoing bile duct ligation (BDL) for 12 h. Platelet rolling and adhesion, formation of platelet aggregates as well as microvascular perfusion in the liver were analyzed using intravital fluorescence microscopy. Liver damage was monitored by measuring serum levels of alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST). Administration of Y-27632 reduced the BDL-associated increase of ALT and AST by 95% and 89%, respectively. The inhibition of Rho-kinase also reduced cholestasis-induced platelet rolling and adhesion by more than 46% and 73% in postsinusoidal venules and platelet adhesion in sinusoids by 60%. In addition, Y-27632 decreased platelet aggregation in hepatic sinusoids and postsinusoidal venules by 69% and 81%. BDL caused a significant reduction of hepatic microvascular perfusion. Importantly, pretreatment with Y-27632 restored sinusoidal perfusion in cholestatic animals. Our findings demonstrate that Rho-kinase regulates multiple aspects of platelet interaction in the microcirculation of cholestatic animals. Moreover, inhibition of Rho-kinase signaling not only attenuates platelet responses but also maintains microvascular perfusion and protects against hepatocellular injury in cholestasis. Thus, targeting Rho-kinase signaling may be an effective way to protect against platelet-mediated liver injury in obstructive jaundice.