Adriamycin (ADR) is a potent anticancer drug known to cause severe cardiac toxicity. Although ADR generates free radicals, the role of free radicals in the development of cardiac toxicity and the intracellular target for ADR-induced cardiac toxicity are still not well understood. We produced three transgenic mice lines expressing increased levels of human manganese superoxide dismutase (MnSOD), a mitochondrial enzyme, as an animal model to investigate the role of ADR-mediated free radical generation in mitochondria. The human MnSOD was expressed, functionally active, and properly transported into mitochondria in the heart of transgenic mice. The levels of copper-zinc SOD, catalase, and glutathione peroxidase did not change in the transgenic mice. Electron microscopy revealed dose-dependent ultrastructural alterations with marked mitochondrial damage in nontransgenic mice treated with ADR, but not in the transgenic littermates. Biochemical analysis indicated that the levels of serum creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase in ADR-treated mice were significantly greater in nontransgenic than their transgenic littermates expressing a high level of human MnSOD after ADR treatment. These results support a major role for free radical generation in ADR toxicity as well as suggesting mitochondria as the critical site of cardiac injury.

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Published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, v. 98, no. 5.

© The American Society for Clinical Investigation, Inc.

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This work was supported in part by grants to D.K. St. Clair from National Institutes of Health (CA 49797 and CA 59835), KTRB (5- 41113), and American Heart Association (Kentucky Affiliate), to YeShih Ho from NIH (HL 44571), and to T.D. Oberly from a VA Merit award.