The role of the RhoA/ROCK signaling pathway in mechanical strain-induced scleral myofibroblast differentiation

Ying Yuan, Min Li, Chi Ho To, Thomas Chuen Lam, Peng Wang, Yunjie Yu, Qingzhong Chen, Xiaojun Hu, Bilian Ke

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


PURPOSE. Biomechanical properties changes and α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) overexpression are involved in myopia scleral remodeling. However, interactions between altered tissue biomechanics and cellular signaling that sustain scleral remodeling have not been well defined. We determine the mechanisms of mechanotransduction in the regulation of α-SMA expression during myopia scleral remodeling. METHODS. Guinea pigs were used to establish a form-deprivation myopia (FDM) model. Protein profiles in myopic sclera were examined using tandem mass spectrometry. Ras homolog gene family member A (RhoA) and α-SMA expressions were confirmed using quantitative (q) RT-PCR and Western blotting. Scleral fibroblasts were cultured and subjected to 4% cyclic strain. Levels of RhoA, rho-associated protein kinase-2 (ROCK2), myocardin-related transcription factor-A (MRTF-A), serum response factor (SRF), and α-SMA were determined by qRT-PCR and Western blotting in groups with or without the RhoA siRNA or ROCK inhibitor Y27632. MRTF-A and α-SMA were evaluated by confocal immunofluorescent microscopy and myofibroblasts were enumerated using flow cytometry. RESULTS. mRNA and protein levels of RhoA and α-SMA were significantly increased in the FDM eyes after 4 weeks of form-deprivation treatment. The 4% static strain increased expressions of RhoA, ROCK2, MRTF-A, SRF, and α-SMA as well as nuclear translocalization of MRTF-A in scleral fibroblasts compared to those without strain stimulation. Additionally, the percentage of myofibroblasts increased after strain stimulation. Conversely, inhibition of RhoA or ROCK2 reversed the strain-induced α-SMA expression and myofibroblast ratio. CONCLUSIONS. Mechanical strain activated RhoA signaling and scleral myofibroblast differentiation. Strain also mediated myofibroblast differentiation via the RhoA/ROCK2-MRTF-A/SRF pathway. These findings provided evidence for a mechanical strain-induced RhoA/ROCK2 pathway that may contribute to myopia scleral remodeling.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3619-3629
Number of pages11
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018


  • Form-deprivation myopia
  • Mechanotransduction
  • RhoA/ROCK2
  • Scleral fibroblast
  • α-SMA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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