Sildenafil improves blood perfusion in steroid-induced avascular necrosis of femoral head in rabbits via a protein kinase G-dependent mechanism
The aim of the study were to evaluate the effect of sildenafil against avascular necrosis of femoral head (ANFH) in a rabbit model, and to study the role of protein kinase G (PKG) pathway and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in ANFH. Three weeks after inducing ANFH with methylprednisolone injection, 45 female adult New Zealand white rabbits were divided into three groups and treated as follows: group SI received daily intraperitoneal sildenafil with a dose of 10 mg/kg per day; group SD received daily sildenafil identically to group SI plus auricular vein injection DT3 (a specific PKG inhibitor); group NS received only normal saline. The blood perfusion function in the femoral head was measured by perfusion MRI and ink artery infusion. Bilateral femora heads were examined histopathologically for the presence of osteonecrosis; VEGF of tissue was examined by Western blot analysis; cGMP level and PKG activity were also measured. The incidence of ANFH in SI group was significantly lower than that observed in NS and SD groups (p < 0.05). VEGF in SI group was increased compared to NS group. cGMP level and PKG activity were also significantly different between NS and SI group (p < 0.05). However, these effects of sildenafil in SD group were all markedly inhibited by the administration of DT3 compared to SI group. Sildenafil appear to increase the perfusion of femoral head by up-regulating VEGF through PKG pathway. The increased perfusion of femoral head could prevent ANFH.