|Symbol||Rho-associated protein kinase|
|Alt. symbols||Rho-associated, coiled-coil-containing protein kinase|
Rho-associated protein kinase (ROCK) is a kinase belonging to the AGC (PKA/ PKG/PKC) family of serine-threonine specific protein kinases. It is involved mainly in regulating the shape and movement of cells by acting on the cytoskeleton.
ROCKs (ROCK1 and ROCK2) occur in mammals (human, rat, mouse, cow), zebrafish, Xenopus, invertebrates (C. elegans, mosquito, Drosophila) and chicken. Human ROCK1 has a molecular mass of 158 kDa and is a major downstream effector of the small GTPase RhoA. Mammalian ROCK consists of a kinase domain, a coiled-coil region and a Pleckstrin homology (PH) domain, which reduces the kinase activity of ROCKs by an autoinhibitory intramolecular fold if RhoA-GTP is not present.
Rat ROCKs were discovered as the first effectors of Rho and they induce the formation of stress fibers and focal adhesions by phosphorylating MLC (myosin light chain). Due to this phosphorylation, the actin binding of myosin II and, thus, the contractility increases. Two mouse ROCK isoforms ROCK1 and ROCK2 have been identified. ROCK1 is mainly expressed in the lung, liver, spleen, kidney and testis. However, ROCK2 is distributed mostly in the brain and heart.
Protein kinase C and Rho-associated protein kinase are involved in regulating calcium ion intake; these calcium ions, in turn stimulate a myosin light chain kinase, forcing a contraction.
ROCK plays a role in a wide range of different cellular phenomena, as ROCK is a downstream effector protein of the small GTPase Rho, which is one of the major regulators of the cytoskeleton.
1. ROCK is a key regulator of actin organization and thus a regulator of cell migration as follows:
Different substrates can be phosphorylated by ROCKs, including LIM kinase, myosin light chain (MLC) and MLC phosphatase. These substrates, once phosphorylated, regulate actin filament organization and contractility as follows:
ROCK inhibits the depolymerization of actin filaments indirectly: ROCK phosphorylates and activates LIM kinase, which in turn phosphorylates ADF/cofilin, thereby inactivating its actin-depolymerization activity. This results in the stabilization of actin filaments and an increase in their numbers. Thus, over time actin monomers that are needed to continue actin polymerization for migration become limited. The increased stable actin filaments and the loss of actin monomers contribute to a reduction of cell migration.
ROCK also regulates cell migration by promoting cellular contraction and thus cell-substratum contacts. ROCK increases the activity of the motor protein myosin II by two different mechanisms:
Thus in both cases, ROCK activation by Rho induces the formation of actin stress fibers, actin filament bundles of opposing polarity, containing myosin II, tropomyosin, caldesmon and MLC-kinase, and consequently of focal contacts, which are immature integrin-based adhesion points with the extracellular substrate.
2. Other functions and targets
3. Other ROCK targets
|Rho-associated, coiled-coil-containing protein kinase 1|
|Rho-associated, coiled-coil-containing protein kinase 2|
The two mouse ROCK isoforms, ROCK1 and ROCK2, have high homology. They have 65% amino acid sequences in common and 92% homology within their kinase domains.  
ROCKs are homologous to other metazoan kinases such as myotonic dystrophy kinase (DMPK), DMPK-related cell division control protein 42 (Cdc42)-binding kinases (MRCK) and citron kinase. All of these kinases are composed of a N-terminal kinase domain, a coiled-coil structure and other functional motifs at the C-terminus 
ROCK is a downstream effector molecule of the Rho GTPase Rho that increases ROCK kinase activity when bound to it.
ROCK activity is regulated by the disruption of an intramolecular autoinhibition. In general, the structure of ROCK proteins consists of an N-terminal kinase domain, a coiled-coiled region and a PH domain containing a cystein-rich domain (CRD) at the C-terminal. A Rho-binding domain (RBD) is located in close proximity just in front of the PH domain.
The kinase activity is inhibited by the intramolecular binding between the C-terminal cluster of RBD domain and the PH domain to the N-terminal kinase domain of ROCK. Thus, the kinase activity is off when ROCK is intramolecularly folded. The kinase activity is switched on when Rho-GTP binds to the Rho-binding domain of ROCK, disrupting the autoinhibitory interaction within ROCK, which liberates the kinase domain because ROCK is then no longer intramolecularly folded.
It has also been shown that Rho is not the only activator of ROCK. ROCK can also be regulated by lipids, in particular arachidonic acid, and protein oligomerization, which induces N-terminal transphosphorylation.
Further information: Rho kinase inhibitor
Research over the past two decades has shown that ROCK signaling plays an important role in many diseases including cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and cancer. For example, ROCK has been hypothesized to play an important role in the pleiotropic effects of statins. ROCK1/2 along with MRCKα/β kinases have been implicated in the plasticity of cancer cell migration, the phenomenon which bestows survival advantage to the cancer cells during drug treatments (drug resistance).
Researchers are developing ROCK inhibitors such as RKI-1447 for treating various diseases including cancer. For example, such drugs have potential to prevent cancer from spreading by blocking cell migration, stopping cancer cells from spreading into neighboring tissue.