Enhanced sensitivity of human oral carcinomas to induction of apoptosis by selenium compounds: Involvement of mitogen-activated protein kinase and Fas pathways

Aurnab Ghose, Janis Fleming, Karam El-Bayoumy, Paul R. Harrison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


Prospective studies and recent intervention trials suggest that the risk of some cancers, including respiratory tract cancers, may be inversely related to selenium (SE) intake, and this is supported by strong experimental evidence with chemical-induced animal cancer models. How this cancer-protective effect is mediated is unclear, but interference with the balance of growth/apoptosis during tumor outgrowth is one plausible hypothesis. In general, there is a correlation between the effectiveness of SE compounds as chemopreventive agents in vivo and their ability to inhibit cell growth and induce apoptosis in vitro. This study has investigated the signal transduction pathways affected by SE compounds in biopsies of normal human oral mucosa cells and human oral squamous carcinoma cells (SCCs), using a primary culture system. Two SE compounds were tested: selenodiglutathione (SDG), the primary metabolite of selenite and the most commonly used cancer-protective SE compound in animal models, and the synthetic SE compound, 1, 4-phenylenebis(methylene)selenocyanate (p-XSC), one of the most potent chemopreventive pharmacological SE compounds. Three novel findings are reported: (a) SCCs were found to be significantly more sensitive to induction of apoptosis by SDG than normal human oral mucosa cells, though the differences were marginal with p-XSC; (b) both SE compounds induced the expression of Fas ligand (Fas-L) in oral cells to a degree that correlated with the extent of apoptosis induction; and (c) both SDG and p-XSC induced the stress pathway kinases, Jun NH2-terminal kinase (JNK) and p38 kinase, at concentrations causing apoptosis; p-XSC, and to a lesser extent SDG, also activated extracellular regulated kinases 1&2 (ERKs 1&2) and protein kinase-B or Akt. To test their functional involvement, the effect of inhibiting each of these pathways on induction of apoptosis by SDG and p-XSC was determined in SCCs. Inhibiting the ERKs 1&2 or Akt pathways with specific chemical inhibitors (PD98059 or LY294002, respectively) did not affect the extent of apoptosis induced by SDG or p-XSC (with the exception of LY294002, which actually enhanced the level of induction of apoptosis by SDG). The JNK pathway appeared to be most important for induction of Fas-L and apoptosis because concentrations of SB202190 that inhibited activation of both the JNK and p38 kinase (but not ERKs 1&2) in SCC reduced the extent of induction of Fas-L and apoptosis by SDG and p-XSC, whereas lower concentrations that inhibited activation only of p38 kinase did not. This was confirmed by the fact that exogenous expression of a dominant negative deletion mutant of c-Jun (TAM67) reduced the induction of both apoptosis and Fas-L by SDG.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7479-7487
Number of pages9
JournalCancer Research
Issue number20
StatePublished - Oct 15 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


Dive into the research topics of 'Enhanced sensitivity of human oral carcinomas to induction of apoptosis by selenium compounds: Involvement of mitogen-activated protein kinase and Fas pathways'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this