Cell migration is important in the development of atherosclerotic lesions. Macrophages and smooth muscle cells migrate into the subendothelial space of arteries, leading to plaque formation. Long-term inhibition of the activity of Rho-kinase induces a regression of atherosclerotic coronary lesions, probably by preventing migration of macrophages and smooth muscle cells. Previous reports concerning the effect of Rho-kinase inhibitors on cell migration are contradictory, however. We examined here the cell type specificity of Rho-kinase inhibitors and found that migration of endothelial cells, macrophages, and smooth muscle cells was inhibited by treatment with Rho-kinase inhibitors in a dose-dependent fashion in a three-dimensional migration assay, whereas that of fibroblasts and epithelial cells was not inhibited. Myosin II inhibitor prevented cell migration in a manner similar to Rho-kinase inhibitors. In contrast, in a two-dimensional migration assay, cell migration was not inhibited by Rho-kinase or myosin II inhibitors for any of the cell types examined. Taken together, these results indicate that Rho-kinase inhibitors suppress migration of specific cell types under specific conditions through the regulation of myosin II activity. Our findings suggest that Rho-kinase is the therapeutic target of atherosclerosis accompanied with invasion by leukocytes and smooth muscle cells.
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