Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover (TiHo)TiHo eLib

A circular RNA derived from the insulin receptor locus protects against doxorubicin-induced cardiotoxicity


Cardiotoxicity leading to heart failure (HF) is a growing problem in many cancer survivors. As specific treatment strategies are not available, RNA discovery pipelines were employed and a new and powerful circular RNA (circRNA)-based therapy was developed for the treatment of doxorubicin-induced HF.

Methods and results

The circRNA sequencing was applied and the highly species-conserved circRNA insulin receptor (Circ-INSR) was identified, which participates in HF processes, including those provoked by cardiotoxic anti-cancer treatments. Chemotherapy-provoked cardiotoxicity leads to the down-regulation of Circ-INSR in rodents and patients, which mechanistically contributes to cardiomyocyte cell death, cardiac dysfunction, and mitochondrial damage. In contrast, Circ-INSR overexpression prevented doxorubicin-mediated cardiotoxicity in both rodent and human cardiomyocytes in vitro and in a mouse model of chronic doxorubicin cardiotoxicity. Breast cancer type 1 susceptibility protein (Brca1) was identified as a regulator of Circ-INSR expression. Detailed transcriptomic and proteomic analyses revealed that Circ-INSR regulates apoptotic and metabolic pathways in cardiomyocytes. Circ-INSR physically interacts with the single-stranded DNA-binding protein (SSBP1) mediating its cardioprotective effects under doxorubicin stress. Importantly, in vitro transcribed and circularized Circ-INSR mimics also protected against doxorubicin-induced cardiotoxicity.


Circ-INSR is a highly conserved non-coding RNA which is down-regulated during cardiotoxicity and cardiac remodelling. Adeno-associated virus and circRNA mimics-based Circ-INSR overexpression prevent and reverse doxorubicin-mediated cardiomyocyte death and improve cardiac function. The results of this study highlight a novel and translationally important Circ-INSR-based therapeutic approach for doxorubicin-induced cardiac dysfunction.



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