The possible contribution of Rho/Rho-kinase signalling in oleic acid (100 mg kg(-1), i.v., for 4 h)-induced lung injury was investigated in rats. Furthermore, the possible protective effect of the administration of a Rho-kinase inhibitor, (+)-(R)-trans-4-(1-aminoethyl)-N-(4-pyridyl) cyclohexanecarboxamide dihydrochloride monohydrate (Y-27632, 0.5-5 mg kg(-1), i.v., 15 min before the administration of oleic acid), was also examined. Western blot analysis as well as histopathological examination revealed that Rho-kinase (ROCK-1 and ROCK-2) was upregulated in lungs obtained from oleic acid-administrated rats. In addition, the markers of oxidative and nitrosative stress, i.e., malondialdehyde, myeloperoxidase, 3-nitro-L-tyrosine and nitrite/nitrate, in serum and lung tissue were also increased in the injury group. Treatment of rats with 5 mg kg-1 Y-27632 reversed the oleic acid-induced lung damage, which was demonstrated by histopathological assessment and confirmed in Western blot experiments: ROCK-blots were more intense in the oleic acid group than in control and Y-27632 treatment reversed ROCK upregulation. In addition, malondialdehyde, myeloperoxidase, 3-nitro-L-tyrosine and nitrite/nitrate were also normalized after the administration of Y-27632 (0.5 mg kg(-1) and 5 mg kg(-1)). These findings suggest that ROCK-1 and ROCK-2 are involved in oleic acid-induced lung damage in rats, and that inhibition of this enzyme by Y-27632 may have a protective effect against such damage. Consequently, Rho kinase inhibitors may be potential therapeutic agents in the treatment of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). (c) 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.