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The expression of O6-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase in human oral keratinocytes stimulated with arecoline


Correspondence: Prof. Yu-Chao Chang, School of Dentistry, Chung Shan Medical University, 110, Sec. 1, Chien-Kuo N. Rd., Taichung, Taiwan. Tel: 886-4-24718668, Fax: 886-4-24759065 E-mail:



O6-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase (MGMT) is a DNA repair enzyme that can protect cells from carcinogenic effects of alkylating agents by removing adducts from the O6 position of guanine. Evidences indicated that areca quid chewing may increase the risk of oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC). This study was to investigate the role of MGMT expression in OSCCs and the normal oral tissues.


Thirty-two OSCCs from areca quid chewers and ten normal oral tissue biopsy samples without areca quid chewing were analyzed by the immunohistochemistry for MGMT. Primary human oral keratinocytes (HOKs) were challenged with arecoline, the major alkaloid of areca nut, by Western blot. Nicotine, an important component of cigarette smoke, was added to find the possible regulatory mechanisms.


Significant association was observed between low MGMT expression and advanced clinical stage of OSCCs and lymph node metastasis (= 0.03). MGMT expression was significantly higher in patients only chewing areca quid than patients both chewing areca quid and smoking (= 0.028). Arecoline was found to elevate MGMT expression in a dose- and time-dependent manner. The addition of nicotine was found to enhance arecoline-induced MGMT expression.


Our results indicate that MGMT could be used clinically as a predictive marker for tumor processing, the potential for lymph node metastasis as well as advanced clinical stage. MGMT expression was significantly upregulated by arecoline in HOKs. Nicotine has a synergistic effect of arecoline-induced MGMT expression. The cigarette smoking may act synergistically in the pathogenesis of OSCC in areca quid chewers via the upregulation of MGMT.