Rho kinase-related proteins in human vaginal arteries: An immunohistochemical and functional study

Stefan Ückert, Eginhard S. Waldkirch, Wolfgang Kauffels, Markus A. Kuczyk, Petter Hedlund

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction. The calcium-sensitizing Rho A/Rho kinase pathway has been suggested to play a role in the control of nongenital vascular smooth muscle. Rho-associated kinases (ROKs) cause calcium-independent modulation of smooth muscle contraction, and have been demonstrated in the bladder, prostate, and corpus cavernosum. Until now, it is not known whether ROKs and related proteins play a role in the control of vaginal blood flow. Aim. To investigate by means of functional studies and immunohistochemistry the significance of the Rho pathway in human vaginal arteries. Methods. Vaginal tissue was obtained from five postmenopausal women. Specimens were processed for immunohistochemistry for ROK1, ROK2, RhoA, and RhoGDI. Segments of sub-epithelial vaginal arteries were mounted in a tissue bath. Effects of Y27632 on the concentration-response curves to phenylephrine (Phe) or Phe-precontracted preparations were investigated. Main Outcome Measure. The expression of Rho kinases ROK1, ROK2, and the Rho-associated protein RhoGDI in human vaginal arteries was investigated by means of immunohistochemistry. Tissue bath studies were conducted in order to characterize the effects of the ROK inhibitor Y27632 on isolated vaginal arteries. Results. A meshwork of α-actin immunoreactive arterioles was located in the sub-epithelium of human vaginal specimens. Immunoreactivities for ROK1, ROK2, RhoA, and RhoGDI were expressed in the smooth musculature of these arteries. At 0.1 and 1μM Y27632, the contraction to Phe (10μM) was 99±17% and 28±12% that of 124mM K +. In Phe-contracted preparations, Y27632 produced relaxant responses. Conclusions. The activation of alpha 1-adrenoceptors contracts sub-epithelial human vaginal arteries via ROK-sensitive mechanisms. A role for these signals in the regulation of vaginal blood flow might be considered.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2739-2745
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Sexual Medicine
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2011


  • Human vaginal arteries
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Rho kinases
  • Rho-related proteins
  • Tissue bath studies
  • Vaginal blood flow

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Urology
  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology
  • Reproductive Medicine


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