Endothelial dysfunction is a key event in the development of vascular disease, and it precedes clinically obvious vascular pathology. Abnormal activation of the RhoA/Rho kinase (ROCK) pathway has been found to elevate vascular tone through unbalancing the production of vasodilating and vasoconstricting substances. Inhibition of the RhoA/ROCK pathway can prevent endothelial dysfunction in a variety of pathological conditions. This review, based on recent molecular, cellular, and animal studies, focuses on the current understanding of the ROCK pathway and its roles in endothelial dysfunction.
Key words: Endothelial dysfunction, Rho kinase, nitric oxide, endothelium-dependent contractions.