Research Papers:

Disruption of ROCK1 gene restores autophagic flux and mitigates doxorubicin-induced cardiotoxicity

Jianjian Shi, Michelle Surma and Lei Wei _

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Oncotarget. 2018; 9:12995-13008. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.24457

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Jianjian Shi1, Michelle Surma1 and Lei Wei1,2

1Riley Heart Research Center, Herman B Wells Center for Pediatric Research, Department of Pediatrics, Indiana University, School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

2Department of Cellular and Integrative Physiology, Indiana University, School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Correspondence to:

Lei Wei, email: [email protected]

Jianjian Shi, email: [email protected]

Keywords: Rho kinase; doxorubicin; cardiotoxicity; autophagy; apoptosis

Received: November 11, 2017     Accepted: February 03, 2018     Published: February 08, 2018


Doxorubicin is among the essential medicines with a wide antitumor spectrum, but its clinical application is limited by its cardiotoxicity. We recently discovered that ROCK1 is a key molecule in mediating cardiac remodeling in response to various stresses. To determine the roles of ROCK1 in doxorubicin cardiotoxicity, we gave three doses of doxorubicin injections to wild type (WT) and ROCK1-/- mice with one week intervals between treatments, the cumulative dose being 24 mg/kg. ROCK1-/- mice exhibited preserved cardiac function, reduced apoptosis, autophagy and fibrosis compared to the WT mice. To further determine the cellular mechanisms, we have examined the role of ROCK1 in cardiomyocytes using cardiomyocyte-specific knockout mice, MHC-Cre/ROCK1fl/fl, which partially reproduced the cardioprotective characteristics of ROCK1-/- mice, indicating that ROCK1 in both cardiomyocytes and non-cardiomyocytes mediates doxorubicin cardiotoxicity. To elucidate the molecular mechanisms, a detailed time course study after a single doxorubicin injection at 10 mg/kg was performed in ROCK1-/- and MHC-Cre/ROCK1fl/fl mice. The molecular analysis revealed that both ROCK1-/- and MHC-Cre/ROCK1fl/fl hearts exhibited significant reduction of doxorubicin-induced early responses including increased apoptotic (Bax) and autophagic (p62/SQSTM1 and LC3-II) markers, associated with reduced Beclin 1 phosphorylation on Thr119, supporting reduced Beclin 1-mediated autophagy initiation due to increased association of Beclin 1 with Bcl 2 or Bcl-XL in these hearts compared to the WT or ROCK1fl/fl mice. These results support that ROCK1 deficiency is cardioprotective against doxorubicin-induced cardiotoxicity at least in part through reducing Beclin 1-mediated autophagy initiation in cardiomyocytes and restoring autophagic flux to ameliorate doxorubicin cardiotoxicity.

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