Microcirculatory disturbances contribute to the expansion of infarct lesions after focal cerebral ischemia. Recently, it was shown that Rho-kinase involves in endothelial dysfunction via down-regulation of endothelial nitric oxide synthase function in a rodent stroke model. However, it is not clear whether endothelial Rho-kinase is activated in vivo or Rho-kinase activation contributes to microcirculatory disturbances after cerebral ischemia. In this study, we assessed the temporal and spatial profiles of Rho-kianse activity and the effect of the Rho-kinase inhibitor fasudil on microcirculatory disturbances in the focal brain ischemia. Rho-kinase activation was evaluated by analyzing the phosphorylation of adducin, a substrate of Rho-kinase, by immunohistochemistry. Staining for p-adducin was found in endothelia in the ischemic area 6 hr after induction of ischemia. Microcirculatory disturbances and increased endothelial cell staining for von Willebrand factor (vWF) were observed in the same area. Postischemic treatment with fasudil suppressed endothelial Rho-kinase activation, preserved microcirculation, and inhibited endothelial cell vWF staining. These effects resulted in inhibition of infarct expansion and improvement of neurologic deficits. These findings indicate that Rho-kinase is activated in the endothelial cells and contributes to microcirculatory disturbances in cerebral ischemia. The vascular protective effect of Rho-kinase inhibitors may be useful in the treatment of the acute phase of ischemic stroke.
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