atg7 -Based Autophagy Activation Reverses Doxorubicin-Induced Cardiotoxicity

Yong Wang, Xiaoguang Lu, Xiaoping Wang, Qi Qiu, Ping Zhu, Lin Ma, Xiao Ma, Joerg Herrmann, Xueying Lin, Wei Wang, Xiaolei Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rationale: Anthracycline-induced cardiotoxicity (AIC) is a major side effect that limits the use of anthracyclines as effective chemotherapeutics. No mechanism-based therapy is available when cardiac function deteriorates. Objective: We aim to elucidate the dynamic autophagic defects in AIC and to identify a mechanism-based therapy via both genetic and pharmacological studies. Method and Results: Through phenotyping an adult AIC zebrafish model, we detected a biphasic response in autophagy: activation in the early stage and suppression in the later phase that is characterized by a decline in cardiac function. We conducted conditional genetic studies with atg7, which encodes a rate-limiting autophagy core protein, and found that atg7 overexpression leads to therapeutic effects in the late phase but deleterious effects in the early phase of adult AIC. We then assessed the therapeutic effects of 37 Food and Drug Administration-approved autophagy activators using an embryonic AIC zebrafish model and identified spironolactone, pravastatin, and minoxidil as top-ranking drugs. We demonstrated the therapeutic efficacy of these Food and Drug Administration-approved autophagy activators in the adult AIC model and confirmed that these drugs exert therapeutic effects in the late phase but not in the early AIC phase. Finally, we demonstrated that the time-dependent therapeutic effects are conserved in a mouse AIC model and that spironolactone and rapamycin activated autophagy in an Atg7-dependent fashion. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that atg7-based autophagy activation is an effective therapeutic avenue to reversing the decline in cardiac function in AIC, highlighting the time-dependent nature of autophagy-based therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E166-E182
JournalCirculation research
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 1 2021


  • anthracycline
  • autophagy
  • cardiotoxicity
  • doxorubicin
  • zebrafish

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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