The ROCK isoforms differentially regulate the morphological characteristics of carcinoma cells

Small GTPases. 2020 Mar;11(2):131-137. doi: 10.1080/21541248.2017.1341366. Epub 2017 Sep 18.


Rho-associated kinase (ROCK) activity drives cell migration via actomyosin contractility. During invasion, individual cancer cells can transition between 2 modes of migration, mesenchymal and amoeboid. Changes in ROCK activity can cause a switch between these migration phenotypes which are defined by distinct morphologies. However, recent studies have shown that the ROCK isoforms are not functionally redundant as previously thought. Therefore, it is unclear whether the ROCK isoforms play different roles in regulating migration phenotypes. Here, we found that ROCK1 and ROCK2 differentially regulate carcinoma cell morphology resulting in intermediate phenotypes that share some mesenchymal and amoeboid characteristics. These findings suggest that the ROCK isoforms play unique roles in the phenotypic plasticity of mesenchymal carcinoma cells which may have therapeutic implications.

Keywords: ROCK; adhesion; amoeboid; cancer; contractility; invadopodia; invasion; mesenchymal; migration; morphology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma / pathology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Movement
  • Focal Adhesions
  • Humans
  • Phenotype
  • rho-Associated Kinases / metabolism*


  • ROCK1 protein, human
  • ROCK2 protein, human
  • rho-Associated Kinases