Downregulation of doxorubicin-induced myocardial apoptosis accompanies postnatal heart maturation

Jianjian Shi, Lumin Zhang, Yi Wei Zhang, Michelle Surma, R. Mark Payne, Lei Wei

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

23 Scopus citations


Doxorubicin is a highly effective chemotherapeutic agent used for treating a wide spectrum of tumors, but its usage is limited because of its dose-dependent cardiotoxicity, especially in pediatric patients. Accumulating evidence indicates that caspase-dependent apoptosis contributes to the cardiotoxicity of doxorubicin. However, less attention has been paid to the effects of age on doxorubicin-induced apoptosis signaling in myocardium. This study focused on investigating differential apoptotic sensitivity between neonatal and adult myocardium, in particular, between neonatal and adult cardiomyocytes in vivo. Our results show that caspase-3 activity in normal mouse hearts decreased by ≥20-fold within the first 3 wk after birth, associated with a rapid downregulation in the expression of key proapoptotic proteins in intrinsic and extrinsic pathways. This rapid downregulation of caspase-3 activity was confirmed by immunostaining for cleaved caspase-3 and terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP-mediated nick-end label staining. Doxorubicin treatment induced a dose-dependent increase in caspase-3 activity and apoptosis in neonatal mouse hearts, and both caspase-8 and caspase-9 activations were involved. Using transgenic mice with a nuclear localized LacZ reporter gene to label cardiomyocytes in vivo, we observed a fourfold higher level of doxorubicininduced cardiomyocyte apoptosis in 1-wk-old mice compared with that in 3-wk-old mice. This study points to a major difference in apoptotic signaling in doxorubicin cardiotoxicity between neonatal and adult mouse hearts and reveals a critical transition from high to low susceptibility to doxorubicin-induced apoptosis during postnatal heart maturation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)H1603-H1613
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 15 2012


  • Anthracycline
  • Cardiomyocyte
  • Cardiotoxicity
  • Caspase
  • Chemotherapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine

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