Rho Kinase (ROK)-Related Proteins in Human Cavernous Arteries: An Immunohistochemical and Functional Approach

Eginhard S. Waldkirch, Stefan Ückert, Michael Sohn, Markus A. Kuczyk, Petter Hedlund

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction. Rho kinases (ROKs) cause calcium-independent modulation of smooth muscle contraction. A significant role for the RhoA/ROK pathway in mediating the contraction of the penile erectile tissue has been suggested. Moreover, it has been postulated that ROK activity might represent a key factor in the pathophysiology of erectile dysfunction. Up until today, little is known on the significance of ROK and related proteins in the control of blood flow in the corpus cavernosum. Aim. To investigate by means of immunohistochemistry and organ bath studies the significance of the Rho pathway in human cavernous arteries. Main Outcome Measures. The expression of ROK1, ROK2, RhoA, and RhoGDI in human cavernous arteries was investigated by means of immunohistochemistry; myographic studies were conducted in order to characterize the effects of the ROK inhibitor Y27632 on isolated cavernous arteries. Methods. Specimens of human cavernous arteries were processed for immunohistochemistry for ROK1, ROK2, RhoA, and RhoGDI. Circular penile vascular segments were mounted in a tissue bath and the effects of increasing concentrations of the ROK inhibitor Y27632 on the tension induced by norepinephrine (NE, 1μM) were investigated. Results. Alpha-actin immunoreactive cavernous arterioles also presented abundant staining specific for ROK1, ROK2, RhoA, and RhoGDI in the smooth musculature of the vascular wall. Cumulative addition of Y27632 dose-dependently reversed the tension induced by NE of isolated arterial segments. Y27632 produced relaxant responses with a reversion of tension of 34.3±11.8% at a concentration of 1μM. Conclusion. The findings are in support for a role of the Rho/ROK-mediated signaling in the regulation of muscle tone of human cavernous arteries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1337-1343
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Sexual Medicine
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2012


  • Calcium-independent penile smooth muscle contraction
  • Human penile arteries
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Myographic studies
  • Rho Kinase (ROK)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Urology
  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology
  • Reproductive Medicine


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