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Cell Physiol Biochem. 2013;32(6):1668-80. doi: 10.1159/000356602. Epub 2013 Dec 13.

Exogenous hydrogen sulfide protects against doxorubicin-induced inflammation and cytotoxicity by inhibiting p38MAPK/NFκB pathway in H9c2 cardiac cells.

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Department of Cardiology, The Affiliated Hospital, Guangdong Medical College, Zhanjiang, P.R.China.



We have demonstrated that exogenous hydrogen sulfide (H2S) protects H9c2 cardiac cells against the doxorubicin (DOX)-induced injuries by inhibiting p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway and that the p38 MAPK/nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) pathway is involved in the DOX-induced inflammatory response and cytotoxicity. The present study attempts to test the hypothesis that exogenous H2S might protect cardiomyocytes against the DOX-induced inflammation and cytotoxicity through inhibiting p38 MAPK/NF-κB pathway.


H9c2 cardiac cells were exposed to 5μM DOX for 24 h to establish a model of DOX cardiotoxicity. The cells were pretreated with NaHS( a donor of H2S) or other drugs before exposure to DOX. Cell viability was analyzed by cell counter kit 8 ( CCK-8), The expression of NF-κB p65 and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) was detected by Western blot assay. The levels of interleukin-1β (IL-1β), IL-6 and tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) were tested by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA).


Our findings demonstrated that pretreatment of H9c2 cardiac cells with NaHS for 30 min before exposure to DOX markedly ameliorated the DOX-induced phosphorylation and nuclear translocation of NF-κB p65 subunit. Importantly, the pretreatment with NaHS significantly attenuated the p38 MAPK/NF-κB pathway-mediated inflammatory responses induced by DOX, as evidenced by decreases in the levels of IL-1β, IL-6 and TNF-α. In addition, application of NaHS or IL-1β receptor antagonist (IL-1Ra) or PDTC (an inhibitor of NF-κB) attenuated the DOX-induced expression of iNOS and production of nitric oxide (NO), respectively. Furthermore, IL-1Ra also dramatically reduced the DOX-induced cytotoxicity and phosphorylation of NF-κB p65. The pretreatment of H9c2 cells with N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC), a scavenger of reactive oxygen species (ROS) prior to exposure to DOX depressed the phosphorylation of NF-κB p65 induced by DOX.


The present study has demonstrated the new mechanistic evidence that exogenous H2S attenuates the DOX-induced inflammation and cytotoxicity by inhibiting p38 MAPK/NF-κB pathway in H9c2 cardiac cells. We also provide novel data that the interaction between NF-κB pathway and IL-1β is important in the induction of DOX-induced inflammation and cytotoxicity in H9c2 cardiac cells.

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