Oncology reports

Nicotine enhances invasion and metastasis of human colorectal cancer cells through the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor downstream p38 MAPK signaling pathway.

PMID 26530054


Nicotine as a cigarette component is an established risk factor for colorectal cancer tumorigenesis. The downstream signaling pathways of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAchRs) are believed to be responsible for the cellular effects. In the present study, we evaluated the effects and novel mechanisms for nicotine on the capacity for colorectal cancer cell invasion and metastasis. LOVO and SW620 colorectal cancer cells were stimulated with nicotine in vitro. A Transwell chamber model was applied to detect the capacity for tumor cell invasion. Assays for gelatin zymography and western blotting were applied to detect the activity and expression of metastasis-related matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), respectively. Signal transduction was assessed by immunoblotting for the phosphorylation of relevant signal molecules and the application of pharmaceutical inhibitors. We showed that nicotine increased LOVO and SW620 colorectal cancer cell invasion along with enhanced activity and expression of MMP-1, -2 and -9. Nicotine increased phosphorylation of p38, ERK, Akt and PI3K p85 but had no effect on phosphorylation of JNK, or NF-κB. Of the pharmaceutical inhibitors of U0126 (ERK1/2 inhibitor), LY294002 (Akt activation inhibitor), SB239063 (p38 MAPK activation inhibitor) and hexamethonium (Hex) (nAchRs inhibitor), the cellular and molecular effects were reduced by the applications of SB239063 and Hex. We concluded that nicotine stimulates the invasion and metastasis of colon cancer cells in vitro via activation of the nAchRs and the p38 MAPK downstream signaling pathway. Therefore, p38 MAPK may have potential as a therapeutic target for smoking-related human colorectal cancer metastasis.