Inhibition of oral peroxidase activity by cigarette smoke: in vivo and in vitro studies

Free Radic Biol Med. 2003 Feb 1;34(3):377-84. doi: 10.1016/s0891-5849(02)01297-2.


Oral peroxidase (OPO), the pivotal enzyme in the salivary antioxidant system, seems to be of paramount importance in the oral defense mechanism, especially against the attack of free radicals related to cigarette smoke (CS) and the evolution of oral cancer. The major inducer of oral cancer is exposure to tobacco, which is responsible for 50-90% of cases worldwide. The purpose of our study was to elucidate the outcome of interaction between CS and OPO in smokers and nonsmokers. After smoking a single cigarette, a sharp drop of OPO activity was observed in both groups: 42.5% in smokers and 58.5% in nonsmokers (p <.05). After 30 min, the level of activity returned to 90-100% of the presmoking level, presumably due to the secretion of new saliva into the oral cavity. The difference between the two groups was also observed after exposure of saliva to one cigarette in smoking flasks (in vitro studies); however, as expected, no recovery of activity was observed in either group. Similarly, the OPO activity loss was accompanied by increased carbonylation of the salivary proteins, an indicator of the oxidative damage to proteins. These results may be of great clinical importance, as heavy smokers smoke 20 cigarettes or more on a daily basis. Accordingly, most of the time the oral epithelium of heavy smokers is essentially unprotected by OPO against the deleterious effects of thiocyanate ions and hydroxyl radicals produced by unremoved hydrogen peroxide in the presence of the salivary redox-active metal ions. This may pave the way for the CS-induced and saliva-mediated initiation and progression of oral cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mouth / drug effects*
  • Mouth / enzymology*
  • Mouth Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Mouth Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Nicotiana
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Peroxidase / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Peroxidase / metabolism
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Saliva / drug effects
  • Saliva / metabolism
  • Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Smoking / metabolism*
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / adverse effects*


  • Antioxidants
  • Proteins
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution
  • Peroxidase