P38δ genetic ablation protects female mice from anthracycline cardiotoxicity

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



American Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology








Cardioprotection; Doxorubicin; P38 MAPK; P38δ/MAPK13; Sex differences


© 2020 the American Physiological Society. The efficacy of an anthracycline antibiotic doxorubicin (DOX) as a chemotherapeutic agent is limited by dose-dependent cardiotoxicity. DOX is associated with activation of intracellular stress signaling pathways including p38 MAPKs. While previous studies have implicated p38 MAPK signaling in DOXinduced cardiac injury, the roles of the individual p38 isoforms, specifically, of the alternative isoforms p38γ and p38δ, remain uncharacterized. We aimed to determine the potential cardioprotective effects of p38γ and p38δ genetic deletion in mice subjected to acute DOX treatment. Male and female wild-type (WT), p38γ-/-, p38δ-/-, and p38γ-/-δ-/- mice were injected with 30 mg/kg DOX and their survival was tracked for 10 days. During this period, cardiac function was assessed by echocardiography and electrocardiography and fibrosis by Picro Sirius Red staining. Immunoblotting was performed to assess the expression of signaling proteins and markers linked to autophagy. Significantly improved survival was observed in p38δ-/- female mice post-DOX relative to WT females, but not in p38γ-/- or p38γ-/-δ-/- male or female mice. The improved survival in DOX-treated p38δ-/- females was associated with decreased fibrosis, increased cardiac output and LV diameter relative to DOXtreated WT females, and similar to saline-treated controls. Structural and echocardiographic parameters were either unchanged or worsened in all other groups. Increased autophagy, as suggested by increased LC3-II level, and decreased mammalian target of rapamycin activation was also observed in DOX-treated p38δ-/- females. p38δ plays a crucial role in promoting DOX-induced cardiotoxicity in female mice by inhibiting autophagy. Therefore, p38δ targeting could be a potential cardioprotective strategy in anthracycline chemotherapy. New & Noteworthy: This study for the first time identifies the sex-specific roles of the alternative p38γ and p38δ MAPK isoforms in promoting doxorubicin (DOX) cardiotoxicity. We show that p38δ and p38γ/δ systemic deletion was cardioprotective in female but not in male mice. Cardiac structure and function were preserved in DOXtreated p38δ-/- females and autophagy marker was increased.