Rho-associated coiled-coil containing kinase (ROCK)-2 is an important mediator of the actin cytoskeleton. Because changes in the actin cytoskeleton are critical for platelet function, we hypothesized that ROCK2 in platelets will play important role in thrombosis and can be potentially a target for therapeutic intervention in thromboembolic stroke.
We generated platelet-specific ROCK2-deficient mice (ROCK2 Plt−/− ) from conditional ROCK2 fl° x/fl° x and platelet factor (PF)-4-Cre transgenic mice. Platelets from ROCK2 Plt−/− mice were less responsive to thrombin stimulation in terms of pseudopodia formation, collagen adhesion, and in the formation of homotypic and heterotypic aggregates. This corresponded to prolonged bleeding time and delayed vascular occlusion following vessel injury. To determine whether these changes in platelet function could affect thrombotic disease, we utilized a clot-embolic model of ischaemic stroke. When pre-formed clots from ROCK2 Plt−/− mice were injected into the middle cerebral artery of control mice, cerebral blood flow recovery occurred more rapidly, leading to decreased cerebral injury and neurological deficits, compared to pre-formed clots from control mice. Interestingly, pre-formed clots from control mice produced similar degree of cerebral injury when injected into control or ROCK2 Plt−/− mice, suggesting that platelet ROCK2 deficiency affects clot formation but not propagation. Indeed, in a non-thrombotic intra-filament MCA occlusion model of stroke, platelet ROCK2 deletion was not protective. Furthermore, ROCK2 Plt−/− mice exhibit similar atherosclerosis severity and vascular remodeling as control mice.