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Gastroenterology. 2001 Sep;121(3):566-79.

Rho kinase regulates tight junction function and is necessary for tight junction assembly in polarized intestinal epithelia.

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Epithelial Pathobiology Research Unit, Department of Pathology, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia 30322, USA.



Tight junctions are crucial determinants of barrier function in polarized intestinal epithelia and are regulated by Rho guanosine triphosphatase. Rho kinase (ROCK) is a downstream effector of Rho.


A specific inhibitor of ROCK, Y-27632, was used to examine the role of ROCK in the regulation of tight junctions in model intestinal (T84) cells by electrophysiologic, biochemical, morphologic, and molecular biologic approaches.


ROCK inhibition induced reorganization of apical F-actin structures and enhanced paracellular permeability but did not alter the distribution or detergent solubility of tight junction proteins. Confocal microscopy showed colocalization of a subpool of ROCK with the tight junction protein zonula occludens 1. Inhibition of ROCK function by a dominant negative mutant of ROCK also produced reorganization of apical F-actin structures without disruption of tight junctions. ROCK inhibition in calcium switch assays showed that ROCK is necessary for the assembly of tight and adherens junctions. Upon calcium repletion, occludin, zonula occludens 1, and E-cadherin failed to redistribute to the intercellular junctions; assembly of the apical F-actin cytoskeleton was prevented; and barrier function failed to recover.


We suggest that ROCK regulates intact tight junctions via its effects on the F-actin cytoskeleton. ROCK is also critical for assembly of the apical junctional proteins and the F-actin cytoskeleton organization during junctional formation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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