Ouabain is an endogenous Na+/K+-ATPase inhibitor whose chronic administration induces hypertension. Endogenous ouabain levels increase in human essential hypertension. On the other hand, Rho/Rho kinase (ROCK) pathway has been implicated in various animal models of hypertension. In the current work, we evaluated the possible involvement of Rho kinase in ouabain-induced hypertension. Ouabain was administered daily (20 A mu g/kg, i.p.) to Wistar rats for 6 weeks. After the ouabain treatment, we evaluated the possible changes in vascular responses to KCl and phenylephrine alone and in the presence of Rho kinase inhibitor Y27632. We also determined the expressions of ROCKs, Rho A and phosphorylation of myosin binding subunit of myosin light chain phosphatase (pMYPT) and activation of Rho A. Agonist-induced contractions in the presence of Y27632 are significantly decreased and Y27632-induced relaxations in aortas precontracted with phenylephrine are significantly enhanced with the chronic treatment of ouabain. Although the expressions of ROCK I and ROCK II remained unchanged, pMYPT expression was significantly increased in ouabain-treated group. Moreover, Rho A expression and activation were decreased after treatment with ouabain. Although Rho kinase expression did not change in aortas, increased basal Rho kinase activation may contribute to the development of ouabain-induced hypertension. Our current data present the first evidence that Rho kinase is involved in the development of ouabain-induced hypertension in rats.