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RNA-Mediated Gene Silencing of Nicotinamide N-Methyltransferase Is Associated with Decreased Tumorigenicity in Human Oral Carcinoma Cells

Public Library of Science
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0071272
  • Research Article
  • Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Model Organisms
  • Animal Models
  • Mouse
  • Molecular Cell Biology
  • Nucleic Acids
  • Rna
  • Rna Interference
  • Medicine
  • Diagnostic Medicine
  • Pathology
  • General Pathology
  • Biomarkers
  • Oncology
  • Cancers And Neoplasms
  • Head And Neck Tumors
  • Head And Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma
  • Oral Medicine
  • Oral Diseases
  • Biology
  • Medicine


Oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) is the most common type of oral cancer. Despite progress in the treatment of OSCC, overall survival has not improved substantially in the last three decades. Therefore, identification of reliable biomarkers becomes essential to develop effective anti-cancer therapy. In this study, we focused on the enzyme Nicotinamide N-methyltransferase (NNMT), which plays a fundamental role in the biotransformation of many xenobiotics. Although several tumors have been associated with abnormal NNMT expression, its role in cancer cell metabolism remains largely unknown. In this report, 7 human oral cancer cell lines were examined for NNMT expression by Real-Time PCR, Western blot and HPLC-based catalytic assay. Subsequently, we evaluated the in vitro effect of shRNA-mediated silencing of NNMT on cell proliferation. In vivo tumorigenicity of oral cancer cells with stable knockdown of NNMT was assayed by using xenograft models. High expression levels of NNMT were found in PE/CA PJ-15 cells, in keeping with the results of Western blot and catalytic activity assay. PE/CA PJ-15 cell line was stably transfected with shRNA plasmids against NNMT and analyzed by 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyl tetrazolium bromide (MTT) and soft agar Assays. Transfected and control cells were injected into athymic mice in order to evaluate the effect of NNMT silencing on tumor growth. NNMT downregulation resulted in decreased cell proliferation and colony formation ability on soft agar. In athymic mice, NNMT silencing induced a marked reduction in tumour volume. Our results show that the downregulation of NNMT expression in human oral carcinoma cells significantly inhibits cell growth in vitro and tumorigenicity in vivo. All these experimental data seem to suggest that NNMT plays a critical role in the proliferation and tumorigenic capacity of oral cancer cells, and its inhibition could represent a potential molecular approach to the treatment of oral carcinoma.

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