Fasudil or genetic depletion of ROCK1 or ROCK2 induces anxiety-like behaviors

Academic Article


  • Twenty-nine protein kinase inhibitors have been used to treat human diseases. Out of these, two are Rho-associated protein kinase (ROCK) 1 and 2 inhibitors. The ROCKs heavily influence neuronal architecture and structural plasticity, and ROCKs are putative drug targets for various brain disorders. While the pan-ROCK inhibitor Fasudil has been clinically approved to treat hypertension, heart failure, glaucoma, spinal cord injury, and stroke, a barrier to progress on this therapeutic avenue is the lack of experimental comparisons between pharmacologic and genetic manipulation of ROCKs. Our study begins to address this question using parallel approaches to study behavior in mice that were treated with Fasudil or were heterozygous for ROCK1 or ROCK2. Adult mice treated with Fasudil for thirty days displayed reduced time spent in the open arms of the elevated plus maze, whereas activity in the open field was more analogous to mock-treated animals. Both male and female adult ROCK1+/− and ROCK2+/− mice exhibited reduced time spent in open arms of the elevated plus maze compared to littermate controls. However, ROCK1 or ROCK2 heterozygosity did not alter performance in the open field or Y-maze. These results indicate that chronic treatment with Fasudil induces anxiety-like behaviors that are likely the consequence of ROCK1 and/or ROCK2 inhibition. Our findings may have implications for several ongoing clinical trials using Fasudil or other ROCK-based therapeutics.
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    Author List

  • Greathouse KM; Henderson BW; Gentry EG; Herskowitz JH
  • Volume

  • 373