Disruption of both ROCK1 and ROCK2 genes in cardiomyocytes promotes autophagy and reduces cardiac fibrosis during aging

Jianjian Shi, Michelle Surma, Yang Yang, Lei Wei

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4 Scopus citations


In this study, we investigated the pathophysiological impact of Rho-associated coiled-coil–containing protein kinase (ROCK)1 and ROCK2 double deletion vs. single deletion on cardiac remodeling. Utilizing a cardiomyocyte-specific and tamoxifen-inducible MerCreMer recombinase (MCM), 3 mouse lines (MCM/ROCK1f1/f1/ ROCK2f1/f1, MCM/ROCK1f1/f1, and MCM/ROCK2f1/f1) were generated. As early as 5 d after inducible deletion, the double ROCK knockout hearts exhibited reduced phosphorylation of myosin light chain (MLC) and focal adhesion kinase (FAK), supporting a role for ROCK activity in regulating the nonsarcomeric cytoskeleton. Moreover, the autophagy marker microtubule-associated proteins 1A-1B light chain 3B was increased in the double ROCK knockout, and these early molecular features persisted throughout aging. Mechanistically, the double ROCK knockout promoted age-associated or starvation-induced autophagy concomitant with reduced protein kinase B (AKT), mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), Unc-51-like kinase signaling, and cardiac fibrosis. In contrast, ROCK2 knockout hearts showed increased phosphorylated (p)-MLC and p-FAK levels, which were mostly attributable to a compensatory ROCK1 overactivation. Autophagy was inhibited at the baseline accompanying increased mTOR activity, leading to increased cardiac fibrosis in the ROCK2 knockout hearts. Finally, the loss of ROCK1 had no significant effect on p-MLC and p-FAK levels, mTOR signaling, or autophagy at baseline. In summary, deletions of ROCK isoforms in cardiomyocytes have different, even opposite, effects on endogenous ROCK activity and the MLC/FAK/AKT/mTOR signaling pathway, which is involved in autophagy and fibrosis of the heart.—Shi, J., Surma, M., Yang, Y., Wei, L. Disruption of both ROCK1 and ROCK2 genes in cardiomyocytes promotes autophagy and reduces cardiac fibrosis during aging. FASEB J. 33, 7348–7362 (2019). www.fasebj.org.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7348-7362
Number of pages15
JournalFASEB Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2019



  • Rho kinase
  • cytoskeleton
  • mTOR

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics

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