Dissecting the Mechanisms of Doxorubicin and Oxidative Stress-Induced Cytotoxicity: The Involvement of Actin Cytoskeleton and ROCK1. Academic Article uri icon


  • We have recently reported that ROCK1 deficiency in mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEF) has superior anti-apoptotic and pro-survival effects than antioxidants against doxorubicin, a chemotherapeutic drug. Although oxidative stress is the most widely accepted mechanism, our studies suggest that ROCK1-dependent actin cytoskeleton remodeling plays a more important role in mediating doxorubicin cytotoxicity on MEFs. To further explore the contributions of ROCK1-dependent actin cytoskeleton remodeling in response to stress, this study investigates the mechanistic differences between the cytotoxic effects of doxorubicin versus hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), with a focus on cytoskeleton alterations, apoptosis and necrosis induction. We found that both types of stress induce caspase activation but with different temporal patterns and magnitudes in MEFs: H2O2 induces the maximal levels (2 to 4-fold) of activation of caspases 3, 8, and 9 within 4 h, while doxorubicin induces much higher maximal levels (15 to 25-fold) of caspases activation at later time points (16-24 h). In addition, necrosis induced by H2O2 reaches maximal levels within 4 h while doxorubicin-induced necrosis largely occurs at 16-24 h secondary to apoptosis. Moreover, both types of stress induce actin cytoskeleton remodeling but with different characteristics: H2O2 induces disruption of stress fibers associated with cytosolic translocation of phosphorylated myosin light chain (p-MLC) from stress fibers, while doxorubicin induces cortical F-actin formation associated with cortical translocation of p-MLC from central stress fibers. Furthermore, N-acetylcysteine (an antioxidant) is a potent suppressor for H2O2-induced cytotoxic effects including caspase activation, necrosis, and cell detachment, but shows a much reduced inhibition on doxorubicin-induced changes. On the other hand, ROCK1 deficiency is a more potent suppressor for the cytotoxic effects induced by doxorubicin than by H2O2. These results support the notion that doxorubicin induces caspase activation, necrosis, and actin cytoskeleton alterations largely through ROCK1-dependent and oxidative stress-independent pathways.

published proceedings

  • PLoS One

author list (cited authors)

  • Wei, L., Surma, M., Gough, G., Shi, S., Lambert-Cheatham, N., Chang, J., & Shi, J.

citation count

  • 41

complete list of authors

  • Wei, Lei||Surma, Michelle||Gough, Gina||Shi, Stephanie||Lambert-Cheatham, Nathan||Chang, Jiang||Shi, Jianjian

editor list (cited editors)

  • Kanthou, C.

publication date

  • July 2015