We investigated whether the RhoA/ROCK pathway was involved in the effect of erythropoietin (EPO) to promote retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) axonal regeneration in a rat optic nerve crush (ONC) model. We demonstrated that both EPO and ROCK inhibitor Y-27632 significantly enhanced RGCs survival and axon regeneration in vivo, and the effects of these agents were additive. Expression of active-RhoA was decreased after EPO or Y-27632 per pull down assay and affinity precipitation. Administration of EPO and Y-27632 cocktail resulted in even more RhoA inactivation, decreased expression of ROCK-1 and ROCK-2, and increased expression of growth associated protein-43 (GAP-43) protein per immunohistochemistry and western blot analysis. Down-regulation of active-RhoA, ROCK-1, and ROCK-2 expression by EPO coincided with the appearance of larger numbers of regenerating axons. In conclusion, the RhoA/ROCK signaling pathway was involved in the EPO effect to promote RGCs axon regeneration after ONC.
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