The use of doxorubicin (DOXO) as a chemotherapeutic drug has been hampered by cardiotoxicity leading to cardiomyopathy and heart failure. Folic acid (FA) is a modulator of endothelial nitric oxide (NO) synthase (eNOS), which in turn is an important player in diseases associated with NO insufficiency or NOS dysregulation, such as pressure overload and myocardial infarction. However, the role of FA in DOXO-induced cardiomyopathy is poorly understood. The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that FA prevents DOXO-induced cardiomyopathy by modulating eNOS and mitochondrial structure and function. Male C57BL/6 mice were randomized to a single dose of DOXO (20 mg/kg intraperitoneal) or sham. FA supplementation (10 mg/day per oral) was started 7 days before DOXO injection and continued thereafter. DOXO resulted in 70% mortality after 10 days, with the surviving mice demonstrating a 30% reduction in stroke volume compared with sham groups. Pre-treatment with FA reduced mortality to 45% and improved stroke volume (both P < 0.05 versus DOXO). These effects of FA were underlain by blunting of DOXO-induced cardiomyocyte atrophy, apoptosis, interstitial fibrosis and impairment of mitochondrial function. Mechanistically, pre-treatment with FA prevented DOXO-induced increases in superoxide anion production by reducing the eNOS monomer:dimer ratio and eNOS S-glutathionylation, and attenuated DOXO-induced decreases in superoxide dismutase, eNOS phosphorylation and NO production. Enhancing eNOS function by restoring its coupling and subsequently reducing oxidative stress with FA may be a novel therapeutic approach to attenuate DOXO-induced cardiomyopathy.
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