The small GTP binding protein Rho is implicated in cytoskeletal responses to extracellular signals such as lysophosphatidic acid to form stress fibers and focal contacts. Here we have purified a Rho-interacting protein with a molecular mass of approximately 164 kDa (p164) from bovine brain. This protein bound to GTPgammaS (a non-hydrolyzable GTP analog).RhoA but not to GDP.RhoA or GTPgammaS.RhoA with a mutation in the effector domain (RhoAA37).p164 had a kinase activity which was specifically stimulated by GTPgammaS.RhoA. We obtained the cDNA encoding p164 on the basis of its partial amino acid sequences and named it Rho-associated kinase (Rho-kinase). Rho-kinase has a catalytic domain in the N-terminal portion, a coiled coil domain in the middle portion and a zinc finger-like motif in the C-terminal portion. The catalytic domain shares 72% sequence homology with that of myotonic dystrophy kinase and the coiled coil domain contains a Rho-interacting interface. When COS7 cells were cotransfected with Rho-kinase and activated RhoA, some Rho-kinase was recruited to membranes. Thus it is likely that Rho-kinase is a putative target serine/threonine kinase for Rho and serves as a mediator of the Rho-dependent signaling pathway.