Protective effects of esculetin against doxorubicin-induced toxicity correlated with oxidative stress in rat liver: In vivo and in silico studies

J Biochem Mol Toxicol. 2024 Apr;38(4):e23702. doi: 10.1002/jbt.23702.


Doxorubicin (DOX) is widely used in cancer treatment but the dose-related toxicity of DOX on organs including the liver limit its use. Therefore, there is great interest in combining DOX with natural compounds with antioxidant properties to reduce toxicity and increase drug efficacy. Esculetin is a natural coumarin derivative with biological properties encompassing anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities. In light of these properties, this study was meticulously crafted to investigate the potential of esculetin in preventing doxorubicin (DOX)-induced hepatotoxicity in Sprague-Dawley rats. The rats were divided into a total of six groups: control group, DOX group (administered DOX at a cumulative dose of 5 mg/kg intraperitoneally every other day for 2 weeks), E50 group (administered 50 mg/kg of esculetin intraperitoneally every day), E100 group (administered 100 mg/kg of esculetin intraperitoneally every day) and combined groups (DOX + E50 and DOX + E100) in which esculetin was administered together with DOX. The treatments, both with DOX alone and in combination with E50, manifested a reduction in catalase (CAT mRNA) levels in comparison to the control group. Notably, the enzymatic activities of superoxide dismutase (SOD), CAT, and glutathione peroxidase (GPx) witnessed significant decreases in the liver of rats treated with DOX. Moreover, DOX treatment induced a statistically significant elevation in malondialdehyde (MDA) levels, coupled with a concurrent decrease in glutathione (GSH) levels. Additionally, molecular docking studies were conducted. However, further studies are needed to confirm the hepatoprotective properties of esculetin and to precisely elucidate its mechanisms of action.

Keywords: antioxidant; doxorobicin; hepatoprotective; molecular docking; oxidative stress.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibiotics, Antineoplastic / pharmacology
  • Antioxidants* / pharmacology
  • Doxorubicin* / toxicity
  • Glutathione / metabolism
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Molecular Docking Simulation
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Umbelliferones*


  • Antioxidants
  • esculetin
  • Doxorubicin
  • Glutathione
  • Antibiotics, Antineoplastic
  • Umbelliferones