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Distinct contribution of Rac1 expression in cardiomyocytes to anthracycline-induced cardiac injury

Christian Henninger, Stephanie Pohlmann, Verena Ziegler, Jan Ohlig, Joachim Schmitt, Gerhard Fritz
Biochemical Pharmacology 2019 March 29, 164: 82-93
Cardiotoxicity is the dose limiting adverse effect of anthracycline-based anticancer therapy. Inhibitor studies point to Rac1 as therapeutic target to prevent anthracycline-induced cardiotoxicity. Yet, supporting genetic evidence is still missing and the pathophysiological relevance of different cardiac cell types is unclear. Here, we employed a tamoxifen-inducible cardiomyocyte-specific rac1 knock-out mouse model (Rac1flox/flox/MHC-MerCreMer ) to investigate the impact of Rac1 expression in cardiomyocytes on cardiac injury following doxorubicin treatment. Distinctive stress responses resulting from doxorubicin treatment were observed, including upregulation of systemic markers of inflammation (IL-6, IL-1α, MCP-1), cardiac damage (ANP, BNP), DNA damage (i.e. DNA double-strand breaks (DSB)), DNA damage response (DDR) and cell death. Measuring the acute doxorubicin response, the serum level of MCP-1 was elevated, cardiac mRNA expression of Hsp70 was reduced and cardiac DDR was specifically enhanced in Rac1 deficient mice. The frequency of apoptotic heart cells remained unaffected by Rac1. Employing a subactue model, the number of doxorubicin-induced DSB was significantly reduced if Rac1 is absent. Yet, the doxorubicin-triggered increase in serum ANP and BNP levels remained unaffected by Rac1. Overall, knock-out of rac1 in cardiomyocytes confers partial protection against doxorubicin-induced cardiac injury. Hence, the data provide first genetic evidence supporting the view that pharmacological targeting of Rac1 is useful to widen the therapeutic window of anthracycline-based anticancer therapy by alleviating acute/subacute cardiomyocyte damage. Furthermore, considering published data obtained from the use of pharmacological Rac1 inhibitors, the results of our study indicate that Rac1-regulated functions of cardiac cell types others than cardiomyocytes additionally influence the adverse outcomes of anthracycline treatment on the heart.


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