Crucial Role of ROCK2 in Vascular Smooth Muscle Cells for Hypoxia-Induced Pulmonary Hypertension in Mice
Objective—Rho/Rho-kinase (ROCK) pathway in vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) plays an important role in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular diseases, including pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). Rho-kinase has 2 isoforms, ROCK1 and ROCK2, with different functions in different cells; ROCK1 for circulating inflammatory cells and ROCK2 for the vasculature. In the present study, we aimed to examine whether ROCK2 in VSMC is involved in the pathogenesis of PAH.
Approach and Results—In patients with PAH, the expression of ROCK2 was increased in pulmonary arterial media and primary pulmonary arterial smooth muscle cells when compared with controls. To investigate the role of ROCK2 in VSMC, we generated VSMC-specific heterozygous ROCK2-deficient (ROCK2+/−) mice and VSMC-specific ROCK2-overexpressing transgenic (ROCK2-Tg) mice. The extent of hypoxia-induced pulmonary hypertension was reduced in ROCK2+/− mice and was enhanced in ROCK2-Tg mice compared with respective littermates. The protein expression of ROCK activity and phosphorylated extracellular signal–regulated kinase and the number of Ki67-positive proliferating cells in the lung were reduced in ROCK2+/− mice and were increased in ROCK2-Tg mice compared with respective littermates. In cultured mouse aortic VSMC, migration and proliferation activities were reduced in ROCK2+/− mice, and migration activity was increased in ROCK2-Tg mice compared with respective littermates. In addition, in primary pulmonary arterial smooth muscle cells from a patient with PAH, ROCK2 was required for migration and proliferation through ROCK and extracellular signal–regulated kinase activation.
Conclusions—ROCK2 in VSMC contributes to the pathogenesis of PAH.
- Received February 13, 2013.
- Accepted September 30, 2013.
- © 2013 American Heart Association, Inc.