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Dev Dyn. 2006 Jan;235(1):94-104.

Rho kinases regulate endothelial invasion and migration during valvuloseptal endocardial cushion tissue formation.

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Department of Anoatomy, Graduate School of Medicine, Osaka City University, Osaka, Japan.


Rho-associated kinase (ROCK) is a downstream effector of small Rho-GTPases, and phosphorylates several substrates to regulate cell functions, including actin cytoskeletal reorganization and cellular motility. Endothelial-mesenchymal transformation (EMT) is a critical event in the formation of valves and septa during cardiogenesis. It has been reported that ROCK plays an important role in the regulation of endocardial cell differentiation and migration during mouse cardiogenesis (Zhao and Rivkees [2004] Dev. Biol. 275:183-191). Immunohistochemistry showed that, during chick cardiogenesis, ROCK1 and -2 were expressed in the transforming and migrating endothelial/mesenchymal cells in the outflow tract (OT) and atrioventricular (AV) canal regions from which valvuloseptal endocardial cushion tissue would later develop. Treatment with Y27632, a specific ROCK inhibitor, of cultured AV explants or AV endothelial monolayers of stage 14-minus heart (preactivated stage for EMT) on three-dimensional collagen gel perturbed the seeding of mesenchymal cells into the gel lattice. In these experiments, Y27632 did not suppress the expression of an early transformation marker, smooth muscle alpha-actin. Moreover, Y27632 inhibited the mesenchymal invasion in stage 14-18 AV explants, in which endothelial cells had committed to undergo EMT. ML-9, a myosin light chain kinase inhibitor, also inhibited the mesenchymal invasion in cultured AV explants. These results suggest that ROCKs have a critical role in the mesenchymal cell invasion/migration that occurs at the late onset of EMT.

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