S Bien, A Riad, CA Ritter, M Gratz, F Olshausen, D Westermann, M Grube, T Krieg, S Ciecholewski, SB Felix, A Staudt, H-P Schultheiss, R Ewert, U Völker, C Tschöpe, HK Kroemer
Doxorubicin is a frequently used anticancer drug, but its therapeutic benefit is limited by acute and chronic cardiotoxicity, often leading to heart failure. The mechanisms underlying doxorubicin-induced cardiotoxicity remain unclear. It was previously shown in men that doxorubicin leads to increased endothelin-1 plasma levels. In addition, cardiac-specific overexpression of endothelin-1 in mice resulted in a cardiomyopathy resembling the phenotype following doxorubicin administration. We therefore hypothesized that endothelin-1 is involved in the pathogenesis of doxorubicin cardiotoxicity. In mice (C57Bl/10), we found that doxorubicin (20 mg/kg body weight, i.p.) impaired cardiac function with decreased ejection fraction, diminished cardiac output, and decreased end-systolic pressure points recorded by a microconductance catheter. This impaired function was accompanied by the up-regulation of endothelin-1 expression on mRNA and protein level. In vitro investigations confirmed the regulation of endothelin-1 by doxorubicin and indicated that the doxorubicin-mediated increase of endothelin-1 expression involves epidermal growth factor receptor signaling via the MEK1/2-ERK1/2 cascade, which was further confirmed by immunoblotting studies in the left ventricle of treated animals. Pretreatment of mice with the endothelin receptor antagonist bosentan (100 mg/kg body weight, p.o.) strikingly inhibited doxorubicin-induced cardiotoxicity with preserved indices of contractility. Moreover, bosentan pretreatment resulted in reduced tumor necrosis factor-alpha content, lipid peroxidation, and Bax expression, as well as increased GATA-4 expression. Thus, endothelin-1 plays a key role in mediating the cardiotoxic effects of doxorubicin and its inhibition may be of therapeutic benefit for patients receiving doxorubicin.