ROCK activity increases due to ECM rigidity in the tumor microenvironment and promotes a malignant phenotype via actomyosin contractility. Invasive migration is facilitated by actin-rich adhesive protrusions known as invadopodia that degrade the ECM. Invadopodia activity is dependent on matrix rigidity and contractile forces suggesting that mechanical factors may regulate these subcellular structures through ROCK-dependent actomyosin contractility. However, emerging evidence indicates that the ROCK1 and ROCK2 isoforms perform different functions in cells suggesting that alternative mechanisms may potentially regulate rigidity-dependent invadopodia activity. In this study, we found that matrix rigidity drives ROCK signaling in cancer cells but that ROCK1 and ROCK2 differentially regulate invadopodia activity through separate signaling pathways via contractile (NM II) and non-contractile (LIMK) mechanisms. These data suggest that the mechanical rigidity of the tumor microenvironment may drive ROCK signaling through distinct pathways to enhance the invasive migration required for cancer progression and metastasis.
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