Endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) is an important regulator of cardiovascular homeostasis by production of nitric oxide (NO) from vascular endothelial cells. It can be activated by protein kinase B (PKB)/Akt via phosphorylation at Ser-1177. We are interested in the role of Rho GTPase/Rho kinase (ROCK) pathway in regulation of eNOS expression and activation. Using adenovirus-mediated gene transfer in human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs), we show here that both active RhoA and ROCK not only downregulate eNOS gene expression as reported previously but also inhibit eNOS phosphorylation at Ser-1177 and cellular NO production with concomitant suppression of PKB activation. Moreover, coexpression of a constitutive active form of PKB restores the phosphorylation but not gene expression of eNOS in the presence of active RhoA. Furthermore, we show that thrombin inhibits eNOS phosphorylation, as well as expression via Rho/ROCK pathway. Expression of the active PKB reverses eNOS phosphorylation but has no effect on downregulation of eNOS expression induced by thrombin. Taken together, these data demonstrate that Rho/ROCK pathway negatively regulates eNOS phosphorylation through inhibition of PKB, whereas it downregulates eNOS expression independent of PKB.
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