Background/Aims: The Rho-ROCK signaling pathways play an important role in the activation of hepatic stellate cells (HSCs). We investigated the effects of fasudil hydrochloride hydrate (fasudil), a Rho-kinase (ROCK) inhibitor, on cell growth, collagen production, and collagenase activity in HSCs. Methods: Rat HSCs and human HSC-derived TWNT-4 cells were cultured for studies on stress fiber formation and α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) expression. Proliferation was measured by BrdU incorporation, and apoptosis by TUNEL assay. The phosphorylation states of the MAP kinases (MAPKs), extra cellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2), c-jun kinase (JNK), and p38 were evaluated by western blot analysis. Type I collagen, matrix metalloproteinase-1 (MMP-1) and tissue inhibitor of matrix metalloproteinase-1 (TIMP-1) production and gene expression were evaluated by ELISA and real-time PCR, respectively. Collagenase activity (active MMP-1) was also evaluated. Results: Fasudil (100 μM) inhibited cell spreading, the formation of stress fibers, and expression of α-SMA with concomitant suppression of cell growth, although it did not induce apoptosis. Fasudil inhibited phosphorylation of ERK1/2, JNK, and p38. Treatment with fasudil suppressed the production and transcription of collagen and TIMP, stimulated the production and transcription of MMP-1, and enhanced collagenase activity. Conclusion: These findings demonstrated that fasudil not only suppresses proliferation and collagen production but also increases collagenase activity.
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