Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Toxicology and Cancer Biology

First Advisor

Dr. Daret K. St. Clair


Significant advances in the efficacy of cancer therapy have been accompanied by an escalation of side effects that result from therapy-induced injury to normal tissues. Patients with high grade cancer or metastasis are often treated with chemotherapy, 50% of which are associated with reactive oxygen species generation and cellular oxidative stress. Heart is the normal tissue most susceptible to chemotherapy-induced oxidative stress and heart disease is the most common leading cause of death in cancer survivors. However, early and sensitive biomarkers to identify heart disease are still lacking. Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are released from cells during oxidative stress and send oxidized proteins into the circulation as a compensatory mechanism that prevents cellular proteotoxicity. Thus, the protein contents of EVs released during the pre-degeneration stage reveal that oxidative stress is occurring early in the damaged tissue. Using a mouse model of doxorubicin (DOX)-induced cardiac injury, we demonstrated that EVs can be used as an early diagnostic tool for tissue injury as they are oxidatively modified with 4-hydroxynonenal and contain tissue specific proteins—glycogen phosphorylase brain/heart, muscle, and liver isoforms—that indicate their origins. These biomarkers increased early, before the changes of conventional biomarkers occurred.

EVs also mediate intercellular communication by transferring bioactive molecules between cells. In the cell culture system, EVs play an important role in oxidative stress response by inducing macrophage polarization. EVs from cardiomyocytes promoted both proinflammatory (M1) and anti-inflammatory (M2) macrophage polarization evidenced by higher pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines and nitric oxide generation, as well as mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation suppression and glycolysis enhancement. In contrast, EVs from the hepatocytes supported anti-inflammatory macrophage (M2) by enhancing oxidative phosphorylation and anti-oxidant proteins. DOX promoted the immunostimulatory effects of cardiomyocyte EVs but not hepatocyte EVs. The differential functions of EVs on macrophage phenotype switching are due to their different effects on Thioredoxin 1 redox state, which regulates activities of redox sensitive transcription factors NFκB and Nrf-2. Our findings shed light on the role of EVs as a redox active mediator of immune response during chemotherapy.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

RO1 CA217934, P30 CA177558, P20 GM121327, 2P30 CA177588-01, R01 CA139843, 1S10RR029127