ROCK and RHO Playlist for Preimplantation Development: Streaming to HIPPO Pathway and Apicobasal Polarity in the First Cell Differentiation

Part of the Advances in Anatomy, Embryology and Cell Biology book series (ADVSANAT, volume 229)


In placental mammalian development, the first cell differentiation produces two distinct lineages that emerge according to their position within the embryo: the trophectoderm (TE, placenta precursor) differentiates in the surface, while the inner cell mass (ICM, fetal body precursor) forms inside. Here, we discuss how such position-dependent lineage specifications are regulated by the RHOA subfamily of small GTPases and RHO-associated coiled-coil kinases (ROCK). Recent studies in mouse show that activities of RHO/ROCK are required to promote TE differentiation and to concomitantly suppress ICM formation. RHO/ROCK operate through the HIPPO signaling pathway, whose cell position-specific modulation is central to establishing unique gene expression profiles that confer cell fate. In particular, activities of RHO/ROCK are essential in outside cells to promote nuclear localization of transcriptional co-activators YAP/TAZ, the downstream effectors of HIPPO signaling. Nuclear localization of YAP/TAZ depends on the formation of apicobasal polarity in outside cells, which requires activities of RHO/ROCK. We propose models of how RHO/ROCK regulate lineage specification and lay out challenges for future investigations to deepen our understanding of the roles of RHO/ROCK in preimplantation development. Finally, as RHO/ROCK may be inhibited by certain pharmacological agents, we discuss their potential impact on human preimplantation development in relation to fertility preservation in women.


Blastocyst Cdx2 Sox2 PAR–aPKC LATS1/2 AMOT/AMOTL2 C3 exoenzyme Statins Y-27632 



This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health, USA (P20GM103457) and Hawaii Community Foundation (16ADVC-78882) to V.B.A.


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Anatomy, Biochemistry and Physiology, Institute for Biogenesis ResearchJohn A. Burns School of Medicine, University of HawaiiHonoluluUSA

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