Glutamate transporters play a major role in maintaining brain homeostasis and the astrocytic transporters, EAAT1 and EAAT2, are functionally dominant. Astrocytic excitatory amino acid transporters (EAATs) play important roles in various neuropathologies wherein astrocytes undergo cytoskeletal changes. Astrocytic plasticity is well documented, but the interface between EAAT function, actin and the astrocytic cytoskeleton is poorly understood. Because Rho kinase (ROCK) is a key determinant of actin polymerization, we investigated the effects of ROCK inhibitors on EAAT activity and astrocytic morphology.The functional activity of glutamate transport was determined in murine cultured astrocytes after exposure to the ROCK inhibitors Fasudil (HA-1077) and Y27632 using biochemical, molecular and morphological approaches. Cytochemical analyses assessed changes in astrocytic morphology, F-/G-actin, and localizations of EAAT1/2.Fasudil and Y27632 increased [(3)H]-D-aspartate (D-Asp) uptake into astrocytes, and the action of Fasudil was time-dependent and concentration-related. The rapid stellation of astrocytes (glial fibrillary acidic protein immunocytochemistry) induced by Fasudil was accompanied by reduced phalloidin staining of F-actin and increased V(max) for [(3)H]-D-Asp uptake. Immunoblotting after biotinylation demonstrated that Fasudil increased the expression of EAAT1 and EAAT2 on the cell surface. Immunocytochemistry indicated that Fasudil induced prominent labelling of astrocytic processes by EAAT1/2.These data show for the first time that ROCK plays a major role in determining the cell surface expression of EAAT1/2, providing new evidence for an association between transporter function and astrocytic phenotype. ROCK inhibitors, via the actin cytoskeleton, effect a consequent elevation of glutamate transporter function - this activity profile may contribute to their beneficial actions in neuropathologies.