Background: Capsaicin (CAP), a frequently occurring alkaloid component found in spicy peppers, has demonstrated therapeutic potential against tumors, metabolic disease, and cardiovascular disorders. Doxorubicin (DOX), a widely used anthracycline drug in chemotherapy, is notorious for its cardiotoxicity. This study aimed to investigate the potential of CAP in mitigating DOX toxicity in mouse hearts and H9C2 cells, as well as to explore the underlying mechanisms.

Methods: In our study, we conducted experiments on both mice and H9C2 cells. The mice were divided into four groups and treated with different substances: normal saline, CAP, DOX and CAP+DOX. We evaluated the induction of ferroptosis by DOX and the remission of ferroptosis by CAP using various methods, including echocardiography, Hematoxylin and Eosin (H&E) staining, Masson’s trichrome staining, and determination of ferroptosis metabolites, genes and proteins. Additionally, we employed RNA-seq to identify the inhibitory effect of CAP on DOX-induced myocardial apoptosis, which was further confirmed through western blotting. Similar approaches were applied to H9C2 cells, yielding reliable results.

Results: Our study demonstrated that treatment with CAP improved the survival rate of DOX-treated mice and reduced myocardial injury. Mechanistically, CAP downregulated transferrin (Trf) and upregulated solute carrier family 40 member 1 (SLC40A1), which helped maintain iron levels in the cells and prevent ferroptosis. Furthermore, CAP inhibited DOX-induced apoptosis by modulating the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)- protein kinase B (Akt) signaling pathway. Specifically, CAP activated the PI3K-Akt pathway and regulated downstream BCL2 and BAX to mitigate DOX-induced apoptosis. Therefore, our results suggest that CAP effectively alleviates acute myocardial injury induced by DOX.

Conclusion: Our findings demonstrate that CAP has the potential to alleviate DOX-induced ferroptosis by regulating iron homeostasis. Additionally, it can inhibit DOX-induced apoptosis by activating PI3K-Akt signaling pathway.