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Recent data have shown Ca(2+)-dependent activation of Rho-kinase by sustained depolarization of arterial smooth muscle. Visceral smooth muscles, however, contract phasically in response to action potentials and it is unclear whether Ca(2+)-dependent or -independent Rho-kinase activation occurs. We have therefore investigated this, under physiologically relevant conditions, in intact ureter. Action potentials, ionic currents, Ca(2+) transients, myosin light chain (MLC) phosphorylation and phasic contraction evoked by action potentials in guinea-pig and rat ureter were investigated. In rat, but not guinea-pig ureter, three Rho-kinase inhibitors, Y-27632, HA-1077 and H-1152, significantly decreased phasic contractions and Ca(2+) transients. Voltage- and current-clamp data showed that Rho-kinase inhibition reduced the plateau component of the action potential, inhibited Ca(2+)-channels and, indirectly, Ca(2+)-activated Cl(-) channels. The Ca(2+) channel agonist Bay K8644 could reverse these effects. The K(+) channel blocker TEA could also reverse the inhibitory effect of Y-27632 on the action potential and Ca(2+) transient. Ca(2+) transients and inward current, activated by carbachol-induced sarcoplasmic reticulum Ca(2+)release, were not affected by Rho-kinase inhibition. Rho-kinase inhibition produced a Ca(2+)-independent increase in the relaxation rate of contraction, associated with acceleration of MLC dephosphorylation, which was sensitive to calyculin A. These data show for the first time that: (1) Rho-kinase has major effects on Ca(2+) signalling associated with the action potential, (2) this effect is species dependent and (3) Rho-kinase controls relaxation of phasic contraction of myogenic origin. Thus Rho-kinase can modulate phasic smooth muscle in the absence of agonist, and the mechanisms are both Ca(2+)-dependent, involving ion channels, and Ca(2+)-independent, involving MLC phosphorylation activity.

Original publication




Journal article


J Physiol

Publication Date





839 - 855


Action Potentials, Animals, Calcium Channels, Calcium Signaling, Dose-Response Relationship, Drug, Enzyme Inhibitors, Guinea Pigs, In Vitro Techniques, Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins, Muscle Contraction, Muscle Relaxation, Muscle, Smooth, Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases, Rats, Ureter, rho-Associated Kinases