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Inhibition of Rho-dependent kinases ROCK I/II activates VEGF-driven retinal neovascularization and sprouting angiogenesis.

Kroll J., Epting D., Kern K., Dietz C.T., Feng Y., Hammes H.P., Wieland T., Augustin H.G.

Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is an endothelial-specific growth factor that activates the small GTPase RhoA. While the role of RhoA for VEGF-driven endothelial migration and angiogenesis has been studied in detail, the function of its target proteins, the Rho-dependent kinases ROCK I and II, are controversially discussed. Using the mouse model of oxygen-induced proliferative retinopathy, ROCK I/II inhibition by H-1152 resulted in increased angiogenesis. This enhanced angiogenesis, however, was completely blocked by the VEGF-receptor antagonist PTK787/ZK222584. Loss-of-function experiments in endothelial cells revealed that inhibition of ROCK I/II using the pharmacological inhibitor H-1152 and ROCK I/II-specific small-interfering RNAs resulted in a rise of VEGF-driven sprouting angiogenesis. These functional data were biochemically substantiated by showing an enhanced VEGF-receptor kinase insert domain receptor phosphorylation and extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 activation after inhibition of ROCK I/II. Thus our data identify that the inhibition of Rho-dependent kinases ROCK I/II activates angiogenesis both, in vitro and in vivo.

Am. J. Physiol. 296:H893-H899(2009) [PubMed] [Europe PMC]

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