Purpose: To determine the role of the small guanosine triphosphate (GTP)-binding protein Rho in the migration of corneal epithelial cells.
Methods: The presence of the Rho target proteins Rho-associated coiled coil-containing protein kinase (ROCK)-1 and ROCK-2 in rabbit cornea was examined by immunohistochemical analysis, and that of the corresponding mRNAs in rabbit corneal epithelial cells was determined by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction analysis. The effects of various agents on epithelial cell migration were investigated by measuring the length of the migration path in rabbit corneal blocks in culture.
Results: Both ROCK-1 and ROCK-2 were detected in the rabbit corneal epithelium at both protein and mRNA levels. The Rho activator lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) stimulated corneal epithelial migration in a dose-dependent manner, whereas exoenzyme C3, a Rho inhibitor, inhibited epithelial migration also in a dose-dependent manner. The stimulatory effect of LPA on corneal epithelial migration was prevented by exoenzyme C3. Both cytochalasin B, an inhibitor of actin filament assembly, and ML-7, an inhibitor of myosin light chain kinase, also prevented LPA stimulation of epithelial migration.
Conclusions: These results suggest that Rho mediates corneal epithelial migration in response to external stimuli by regulating the organization of the actin cytoskeleton.