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J Biol Chem. 1997 May 9;272(19):12257-60.

Rho-associated kinase directly induces smooth muscle contraction through myosin light chain phosphorylation.

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  • 1First Department of Internal Medicine, Mie University School of Medicine, Tsu, Mie 514, Japan.


Small GTPase Rho plays pivotal roles in the Ca2+ sensitization of smooth muscle. However, the GTP-bound active form of Rho failed to exert Ca2+-sensitizing effects in extensively Triton X-100-permeabilized smooth muscle preparations, due to the loss of the important diffusible cofactor (Gong, M. C., Iizuka, K., Nixon, G. , Browne, J. P., Hall, A., Eccleston, J. F., Sugai, M., Kobayashi, S. , Somlyo, A. V., and Somlyo, A. P. (1996) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 93, 1340-1345). Here we demonstrate the contractile effects of Rho-associated kinase (Rho-kinase), recently identified as a putative target of Rho, on the Triton X-100-permeabilized smooth muscle of rabbit portal vein. Introduction of the constitutively active form of Rho-kinase into the cytosol of Triton X-100-permeabilized smooth muscle provoked a contraction and a proportional increase in levels of monophosphorylation of myosin light chain in both the presence and the absence of cytosolic Ca2+. These effects of constitutively active Rho-kinase were wortmannin (a potent myosin light chain kinase inhibitor)-insensitive. Immunoblot analysis revealed that the amount of native Rho-kinase was markedly lower in Triton X-100-permeabilized tissue than in intact tissue. Our results demonstrate that Rho-kinase directly modulates smooth muscle contraction through myosin light chain phosphorylation, independently of the Ca2+-calmodulin-dependent myosin light chain kinase pathway.

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