Role of RhoA/ROCK-dependent actin contractility in the induction of tenascin-C by cyclic tensile strain

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In chick embryo fibroblasts, the mRNA for extracellular matrix protein tenascin-C is induced 2-fold by cyclic strain (10%, 0.3 Hz, 6 h). This response is attenuated by inhibiting Rho-dependent kinase (ROCK). The RhoA/ROCK signaling pathway is primarily involved in actin dynamics. Here, we demonstrate its crucial importance in regulating tenascin-C expression. Cyclic strain stimulated RhoA activation and induced fibroblast contraction. Chemical activators of RhoA synergistically enhanced the effects of cyclic strain on cell contractility. Interestingly, tenascin-C mRNA levels perfectly matched the extent of RhoA/ROCK-mediated actin contraction. First, RhoA activation by thrombin, lysophosphatidic acid, or colchicine induced tenascin-C mRNA to a similar extent as strain. Second, RhoA activating drugs in combination with cyclic strain caused a super-induction (4- to 5-fold) of tenascin-C mRNA, which was again suppressed by ROCK inhibition. Third, disruption of the actin cytoskeleton with latrunculin A abolished induction of tenascin-C mRNA by chemical RhoA activators in combination with cyclic strain. Lastly, we found that myosin II activity is required for tenascin-C induction by cyclic strain. We conclude that RhoA/ROCK-controlled actin contractility has a mechanosensory function in fibroblasts that correlates directly with tenascin-C gene expression. Previous RhoA/ROCK activation, either by chemical or mechanical signals, might render fibroblasts more sensitive to external tensile stress, e.g., during wound healing.

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