Increased levels of COX-2 in oral lichen planus supports an autoimmune cause of the disease


  • Conflict of interest
    None declared.

  • Funding sources
    This study was supported by grants from Lion′s Cancer Research Foundation, Umeå University, the Swedish Cancer Society Contract number 10 0324, the Västerbotten County Council and Swedish Dental Society.

K. Danielsson.


Background  Oral lichen planus (OLP) is a chronic inflammatory disease for which the pathogenesis is not fully understood. OLP has autoimmune features and auto immunity has been suggested as a potential cause, whereas WHO has classified OLP as a premalignant condition. Association between chronic inflammation and cancer is known and chronic inflammation is one of the characteristics of OLP. A protein connected to inflammation and suggested to be involved in cancer development is cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) which can be inhibited by microRNA-26b (miR-26b).

Objective  The aim was to map levels of COX-2 and miR-26b in OLP lesions to see if there was any correlation between expression of COX-2 and its regulator miR-26b in OLP.

Methods  In biopsies from 20 OLP patients and 20 age and gender-matched controls laser- micro dissection of epithelium was performed. Quantitative RT-PCR, immunohistochemistry and Western blot were used in the analysis.

Results  Levels of COX-2 mRNA were significantly higher while levels of miR-26b were significantly lower in OLP lesions compared to controls. Using immunohistochemistry normal oral mucosa samples did not show any expression of COX-2 while OLP samples expressed the protein. No COX-2 protein was detectable with Western blot.

Conclusion  Increased expression of COX-2 and decreased expression of miR-26b in OLP suggests both to play a role in OLP. COX-2 has been connected to both malignant development and autoimmunity but as malignant development of OLP is quite rare we suggest that the increased levels of COX-2 seen here support an autoimmune cause of the disease.