Heart failure (HF) is a highly complex disorder and a major end-point of cardiovascular diseases (CVD). The pathogenesis of HF is mostly unresolved but involves interplay between cardiac structural and electrical remodelling, metabolic alterations, cell death and altered gene expression. Mitochondrial dysfunction and HF are common complications of chronic treatment from diverse groups of drugs, in particular anticancer drugs such as doxorubicin (DOX). Treatment of animals and cardiomyocytes with cardiotoxic chemicals such as β-adrenergic receptor agonists (such as isoproterenol) induces cardiac dysfunction and HF. Previous work done by the group have identified the pineal hormone melatonin was protective against stress-induced cardiac arrhythmias and simulated heart failure in cardiomyocytes in vitro. Melatonin synthesis is also dramatically decreased with age and in patients with CVD.
The aim of the present project was to better understand the pathogenesis of druginduced cardiac dysfunction and delineate the role of melatonin in cardioprotection in H9c2, a model rat cell line in vitro. Using the Seahorse XF analyser method, it was demonstrated that commonly used medication for chronic diseases such as amiodarone, amitriptyline, and statins all caused altered mitochondrial dysfunction. In addition, cardiotoxic chemicals (isoproterenol, hydrogen peroxide, DOX) altered oxidative phosphorylation and glycolysis in living cardiomyocyte-derived H9c2 cells; these deleterious metabolic changes were ameliorated by melatonin. Flowcytometry and Alamar Blue staining methods demonstrated that DOX robustly induced apoptosis in H9c2 cells (~30%) which was reversed by melatonin.
Doxorubicin-induced stress in H9c2 cells dramatically altered gene expression in several key signalling pathways integral in cardiac function and disease. These included mitochondrial metabolism (UCP2, PPARɣ, Drp1, Mfn1, Parp 1, Parp2, Sirt3 and Cav3), apoptosis (Bcl2 and Bcl-xL), cardiac electrophysiology and arrhythmia (Scn5a, SERCA2a), calcium handling (SERCA2a) and cardiac remodelling (Myh7, ms1). Melatonin pre-treatment attenuated or completely blocked this DOX-induced alteration in gene expression in cardiomyocytes.
In conclusion, the present result demonstrated for the first time that melatonin is cardioprotective against drug-induced cardiotoxicity and apoptosis via modifying diverse heart failure-related signalling pathways. This provides novel insight on the possible use of melatonin as an adjunct intervention in several therapies including anti-cancer.