Protective effects of antioxidants against smokeless tobacco-induced oxidative stress and modulation of Bcl-2 and p53 genes in human oral keratinocytes

Free Radic Res. 2001 Aug;35(2):181-94. doi: 10.1080/10715760100300731a.


The oral use of chewing tobacco has greatly increased in recent years, and this usage is associated with cancers of the mouth, lip, nasal cavities, esophagus and gut. Oral cancer accounts for 3% of all cancers in U.S.A. and is the seventh most common cancer. Previous studies in our laboratory have demonstrated the protective abilities of a novel IH636 grape seed proanthocyanidin extract (GSPE) against reactive oxygen species both in vitro and in vivo models, and provided significantly better protection as compared to vitamins C, E and beta-carotene. In the recent past, we have demonstrated smokeless tobacco (STE)-induced oxidative stress, apoptotic cell death in a primary culture of normal human oral keratinocytes (NHOK), and have compared the protective abilities of vitamins C and E, singly and in combination, and GSPE in this pathobiology [Free Rad. Biol. Med., 26, 992-1000 (1999)]. In the present study, we have assessed the protective role of vitamins C and E, and GSPE against STE-induced modulation of intracellular oxidized states in NHOK cells as demonstrated by laser scanning confocal microscopy. Approximately 11%, 26%, 28% and 50% protection were observed following incubation with vitamin C, vitamin E, a combination of vitamins C plus E, and GSPE, respectively. DNA fragmentation was assessed as an index of oxidative DNA damage and similar results were observed. Furthermore, the cellular viability and functional roles of Bcl-2, p53 and c-myc genes were assessed in STE-induced oxidative stress in NHOK cells. NHOK cells were treated with STE (0-200 micrograms/ml) for 24 h and changes in the expression of Bcl-2, p53 and c-myc genes were measured by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), and the protective effect of GSPE was assessed. Approximately a 2.0-fold increase in p53 gene expression was observed following incubation of the oral keratinocytes with 100 micrograms/ml of STE, beyond which the expression of p53 decreased, confirming increased apoptotic cell death with a higher concentration of STE as reported earlier. GSPE significantly modulated STE-induced changes in p53. The expression of antiapoptotic Bcl-2 gene decreased with STE treatment and the expression of Bcl-2 gene increased significantly following preincubation with GSPE. No significant change in the expression of transcription factor c-myc gene responsible for cell cycle growth was observed following incubation with STE and/or GSPE. Thus, c-myc may not be involved in STE-induced cytotoxicity towards NHOK cells. These results suggest that antioxidant protection of STE-induced cellular injury is associated with alterations in Bcl-2 and p53 expression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Ascorbic Acid / pharmacology
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • DNA Damage / drug effects
  • Female
  • Formazans
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects*
  • Genes, bcl-2 / genetics*
  • Genes, myc / genetics
  • Genes, p53 / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Keratinocytes / drug effects*
  • Keratinocytes / metabolism
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Mouth / cytology
  • Oxidation-Reduction / drug effects
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Tetrazolium Salts
  • Tobacco, Smokeless / pharmacology*
  • Trypan Blue
  • Vitamin E / pharmacology
  • Vitis / chemistry


  • Antioxidants
  • Formazans
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Tetrazolium Salts
  • Vitamin E
  • MTT formazan
  • Trypan Blue
  • Ascorbic Acid