Heart and Circulatory Physiology

Multiple actions of pifithrin-α on doxorubicin-induced apoptosis in rat myoblastic H9c2 cells

Chu Chang Chua, Xuwan Liu, Jinping Gao, Ronald C. Hamdy, Balvin H. L. Chua


Doxorubicin (Dox) is a chemotherapeutic agent that causes significant cardiotoxicity. We showed previously that Dox activates p53 and induces apoptosis in mouse hearts. This study was designed to elucidate the molecular events that lead to p53 stabilization, to examine the pathways involved in Dox-induced apoptosis, and to evaluate the effectiveness of pifithrin-α (PFT-α), a p53 inhibitor, in blocking apoptosis of rat H9c2 myoblasts. H9c2 cells that were exposed to 5 μM Dox had elevated levels of p53 and phosphorylated p53 at Ser15. Dox also triggered a transient activation of p38, p42/p44ERK, and p46/p54JNK MAP kinases. Caspase activity assays and Western blot analysis showed that H9c2 cells treated with Dox for 16 h had marked increase in the levels of caspases-2, -3, -8, -9, -12, Fas, and cleaved poly(ADP ribose) polymerase (PARP). There was a concomitant increase in p53 binding activity, cytochrome c release, and apoptosis. These results suggest that Dox can trigger intrinsic, extrinsic, and endoplasmic reticulum-associated apoptotic pathways. Pretreatment of cells with PFT-α followed by Dox administration attenuated Dox-induced increases in p53 levels and p53 binding activity and partially blocked the activation of p46/p54JNK and p42/p44ERK. PFT-α also led to decreased levels of caspases-2, -3, -8, -9, -12, Fas, PARP, cytochrome c release, and apoptosis. Our results suggest that p53 stabilization is a focal point of Dox-induced apoptosis and that PFT-α interferes with multiple steps of Dox-induced apoptosis.

  • p53
  • phosphorylated p53
  • mitogen-activated protein kinase
  • caspases
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