Background-Macrophages play a central role in the development of atherosclerosis. However, the signaling pathways that regulate their function are not well understood. The Rho-associated coiled-coil-containing kinases (ROCK1 and ROCK2) are serine-threonine protein kinases that are involved in the regulation of the actin cytoskeleton. Recent studies suggest that ROCK1 in macrophages and bone marrow-derived cells mediates atherogenesis. However, a similar role for ROCK2-/- in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis has not been determined. Methods and Results-The bone marrows from wild-type, ROCK2-/-, and ROCK2-/- mice were transplanted into irradiated recipient low-density lipoprotein receptor mice, and atherosclerosis was induced with a 16-week high-cholesterol diet. Compared with wild-type bone marrow-transplanted mice, ROCK2-/- bone marrow-transplanted and ROCK2-/- bone marrow-transplanted mice showed substantially less lipid accumulation in the aorta (8.46±1.42% and 9.80±2.34% versus 15.64±1.89%; P<0.01 for both) and decreased atherosclerotic lesions in the subaortic sinus (158.1±44.4 and 330.1±109.5×10μm versus 520.2±125.7×10μm; P<0.01 for both). These findings correlated with decreased foam cell formation (2.27±0.57 versus 4.10±0.3; P<0.01) and increased cholesterol efflux (17.65±0.6 versus 9.75±0.8; P<0.05) in ROCK2-/--deficient mice that are mediated, in part, through the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ/liver X receptor/ATP-binding cassette transporter A1 pathway in macrophages. Conclusions-ROCK2-/- contributes to atherosclerosis, in part, by inhibiting peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ-mediated reverse cholesterol transport in macrophages, which contributes to foam cell formation. These findings suggest that inhibition of ROCK2-/- in macrophages may have therapeutic benefits in preventing the development of atherosclerosis.
- Rho kinase
- Rho-associated kinases