To understand the roles of Rho-kinase and myosin light chain kinase (MLCK) for the contraction and organization of stress fibers, we treated cultured human foreskin fibroblasts with several MLCK, Rho-kinase, or calmodulin inhibitors and analyzed F-actin organization in the cells. Some cells were transfected with green fluorescent protein (GFP)-labeled actin, and the effects of inhibitors were also studied in these living cells. The Rho-kinase inhibitors Y-27632 and HA1077 caused disassembly of stress fibers and focal adhesions in the central portion of the cell within I h. However, stress fibers located in the periphery of the cell were not severely affected by the Rho-kinase inhibitors. When these cells were washed with fresh medium, the central stress fibers and focal adhesions gradually reformed, and within 3 h the cells were completely recovered. ML-7 and KT5926 are specific MLCK inhibitors and caused disruption and/or shortening of peripheral stress fibers, leaving the central fibers relatively intact even though their number was reduced. The calmodulin inhibitors W-5 and W-7 gave essentially the same results as the MLCK inhibitors. The MLCK and calmodulin inhibitors, but not the Rho-kinase inhibitors, caused cells to lose the spread morphology, indicating that the peripheral fibers play a major role in keeping the flattened state of the cell. When stress fiber models were reactivated, the peripheral fibers contracted before the central fibers. Thus our study shows that there are at least two different stress fiber systems in the cell. The central stress fiber system is dependent more on the activity of Rho-kinase than on that of MLCK, while the peripheral stress fiber system depends on MLCK.
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