Doxorubicin activates ryanodine receptors in rat lymphatic muscle cells to attenuate rhythmic contractions and lymph flow

Amanda J. Stolarz, Mustafa Sarimollaoglu, John C. Marecki, Terry W. Fletcher, Ekaterina I. Galanzha, Sung W. Rhee, Vladimir P. Zharov, V. Suzanne Klimberg, Nancy J. Rusch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Doxorubicin is a risk factor for secondary lymphedema in cancer patients exposed to surgery or radiation. The risk is presumed to relate to its cytotoxicity. However, the present study provides initial evidence that doxorubicin directly inhibits lymph flow and this action appears distinct from its cytotoxic activity. We used real-time edge detection to track diameter changes in isolated rat mesenteric lymph vessels. Doxorubicin (0.5-20 mmol/l) progressively constricted lymph vessels and inhibited rhythmic contractions, reducing flow to 24.2% 6 7.7% of baseline. The inhibition of rhythmic contractions by doxorubicin paralleled a tonic rise in cytosolic Ca21 concentration in lymphatic muscle cells, which was prevented by pharmacological antagonism of ryanodine receptors. Washout of doxorubicin partially restored lymph vessel contractions, implying a pharmacological effect. Subsequently, high-speed optical imaging was used to assess the effect of doxorubicin on rat mesenteric lymph flow in vivo. Superfusion of doxorubicin (0.05-10 mmol/l) maximally reduced volumetric lymph flow to 34% 6 11.6% of baseline. Likewise, doxorubicin (10 mg/kg) administered intravenously to establish clinically achievable plasma concentrations also maximally reduced volumetric lymph flow to 40.3% 6 6.0% of initial values. Our findings reveal that doxorubicin at plasma concentrations achieved during chemotherapy opens ryanodine receptors to induce “calcium leak” from the sarcoplasmic reticulum in lymphatic muscle cells and reduces lymph flow, an event linked to lymph vessel damage and the development of lymphedema. These results infer that pharmacological block of ryanodine receptors in lymphatic smooth muscle cells may mitigate secondary lymphedema in cancer patients subjected to doxorubicin chemotherapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)278-289
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology


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