ROCK-II mediates colon cancer invasion via regulation of MMP-2 and MMP-13 at the site of invadopodia as revealed by multiphoton imaging

Lab Invest. 2007 Nov;87(11):1149-58. doi: 10.1038/labinvest.3700674. Epub 2007 Sep 17.


The ROCK-II isoform of Rho's downstream effector, Rho kinase, has been linked with greater invasion and metastasis in solid tumors. We have previously shown that ROCK-II is overexpressed at the advancing edge of colon cancers. The mechanism whereby ROCK-II contributes invasion, particularly in the setting of colon cancer, remains to be elucidated fully. To better understand its contribution, we evaluated ROCK-II expression in both non-malignant (NCM460 and IEC-6) and malignant (Caco-2 E, SW620, and HCT-116) intestinal epithelial cell lines grown in type I collagen scaffolds. Using multiphoton microscopy, we observed that ROCK-II localized to the actin cytoskeleton in non-malignant cells but localized to the cell periphery as focal collections with an absence of adjacent collagen in all colon cancer cell lines. By transmission electron microscopy, these collections corresponded with finger-like projections previously described as invadopodia. Immunogold staining with cortactin, matrix metalloprotease (MMP)-2, -9, and -13 confirmed that these were indeed invadopodia. To further link ROCK-II to colon cancer invasion, we treated non-malignant and malignant intestinal epithelial cell lines with ROCK-II siRNA and evaluated depth of invasion, proliferation, and MMP-2, -9, and -13 activities. The most striking effect was seen in the highly tumorigenic cell lines, SW620 and HCT-116, wherein ROCK-II knockdown resulted in a two-fold or more reduction in invasion. This reduction in invasion was not due to a decrease in cell proliferation, as a significant reduction in proliferation was only observed in the two non-malignant intestinal cell lines. Finally, both MMP-2 and -13 activities were significantly decreased in all colon cancer cell lines. Taken together, these data suggest for the first time that ROCK-II is a critical mediator of colon cancer cell invasion through its modulation of MMP-2 and -13 at the site of invadopodia but regulates proliferation in non-malignant intestinal cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actin Cytoskeleton / metabolism
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Collagen Type I / metabolism
  • Colonic Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Epithelial Cells / enzymology
  • Humans
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 13 / metabolism*
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 2 / metabolism*
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 9 / metabolism
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence, Multiphoton
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Pseudopodia / metabolism*
  • rho-Associated Kinases / metabolism*


  • Collagen Type I
  • rho-Associated Kinases
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 13
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 2
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 9