Protein kinase CK2 participates in a wide range of cellular events, including the regulation of cellular morphology and migration, and may be an important mediator of angiogenesis. We previously showed that in the retina, CK2 immunolocalizes mostly to vascular endothelium and astrocytes in association with the cytoskeleton. Additionally, CK2 inhibitors significantly reduced retinal neovascularization and stem cell recruitment in the mouse model of oxygen-induced proliferative retinopathy. We have also shown that CK2 and F-actin co-localized in actin stress fibers in microvascular endothelial cells, and that highly specific CK2 inhibitors caused cell rounding in astrocytes and microvascular endothelial cells, which was alleviated by serum that promotes spreading by Rho/Rho-kinase (RhoK) activation of myosin II. Therefore, we examined a possible role of CK2 in the regulation of actin–myosin II-based contractility. Treatment with CK2 inhibitors correlated with disassembly of actomyosin stress fibers and cell shape changes, including cytoplasmic retraction and process formation that were similar to those occurring during astrocyte stellation. Low doses of specific inhibitors of kinases (RhoK and MLCK) that phosphorylate myosin light chain (MLC) enhanced the effect of suboptimal CK2 inhibition on cell shape. Such striking stellation-like alteration was accompanied by decreased level of phospho-MLC, thus implying a CK2 role in regulation of actomyosin cytoskeleton. Our results suggest an important role of CK2 in the control of cell contractility and motility, which may account for suppressing effect of CK2 inhibition on retinal neovascularization. Together, our data implicate protein kinase CK2 for the first time in stellation-like morphological transformation. J. Cell. Biochem. 113: 2948–2956, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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