Journal of Molecular Medicine

, Volume 84, Issue 7, pp 551–560 | Cite as

IRP1-independent alterations of cardiac iron metabolism in doxorubicin-treated mice

Original Article


Iron aggravates the cardiotoxicity of doxorubicin (DOX), a widely used anticancer anthracycline. The amount of iron in the cell is regulated by the iron regulatory proteins (IRPs)-1 and -2 that control the posttranscriptional expression of key iron metabolism genes. In vitro and cell culture studies revealed the ability of DOX to modulate the activity of both IRPs. However, conflicting data were obtained from different cell types and experimental conditions. To investigate the connection between acute DOX cardiotoxicity and the IRPs in a mammalian organism, we analyzed IRP activity and the expression of IRP target genes in the heart of mice subjected to DOX treatment. DOX exposure elicits a differential modulation of the two IRPs with reduced IRP2 activity and unchanged IRP1 activity. IRP2 downmodulation is associated with the upregulation of the ferritin L and H genes and decreased expression of the transferrin receptor 1 (TfR1). To directly test the role of IRP1 in DOX cardiotoxicity, the DOX response was analyzed in mice lacking IRP1. DOX-mediated IRP2 downmodulation and regulation of ferritin and TfR1 expression is identical in Irp1 −/− mice compared to wild type, as is the degree of oxidative damage of the heart assessed by thioredoxin and thiobarbituric acid reactive substance levels and by brain natriuretic peptide mRNA expression. These data demonstrate that the alterations of cardiac iron homeostasis related to acute anthracycline cardiotoxicity occur independently of IRP1. The observed IRP2 downmodulation could serve as a means to counteract DOX cardiotoxicity by reducing the “free” cellular iron pool.


Iron Anthracyclines Heart Cardiotoxicity Iron regulatory proteins 



We thank Maria Paola Santini for expert advice on RT-PCR analysis, Giorgio Minotti for reading the manuscript, Sonia Levi for antibodies against the ferritin L and H chains, and the staff of the EMBL animal facility for their contribution to this work. This work was made possible by funds from the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize to M. W. H. and grants from Associazione Italiana Ricerca sul Cancro (AIRC) and Ministero dell’Istruzione, dell’Università e della Ricerca (Fondo per gli Investimenti della Ricerca di Base and Cofinanziamento 2002 and 2004) to G. C.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of General PathologyUniversity of MilanMilanItaly
  2. 2.European Molecular Biology LaboratoryHeidelbergGermany

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