Killing effect of methionine enkephalin on melanoma in vivo and in vitro

Oncol Rep. 2017 Oct;38(4):2132-2140. doi: 10.3892/or.2017.5918. Epub 2017 Aug 24.


Melanoma is a common cutaneous malignancy, that is also found in specific mucosal sites, and is associated with a poor prognosis. The aim of the present study was to investigate the cytotoxicity of methionine enkephalin (MENK) for B16 melanoma cells in vivo and in vitro. The results of the present study allowed our conclusion that MENK regulates the proliferation of B16 cells, causing cell cycle arrest in the G0/G1 phase and a decrease in the percentage of cells in the S and G2/M phases. Reverse transcription-quantitative polymerase chain reaction demonstrated that MENK increased opioid receptor expression in the B16 cells. Furthermore, the tumor volume and weight in the MENK-treated group were lower than those in the control group (NS) and MENK and naltrexone (NTX)-treated groups. MENK exerted both significant antitumor activity on the growth of B16 cells and a longer survival time in mice. The mice treated with MENK exhibited an increased ratio of CD4+ to CD8+ T cells as tested by flow cytometry (FCM), resulting in a ratio of 2.03 in the control group, 3.69 in the MENK-treated group, and 2.65 in the MENK and NTX group. Furthermore, a significant increase in plasma levels of IL-2, IFN-γ and TNF-α was revealed as assessed by ELISA. In conclusion, the results of the present study indicate that MENK has a cytotoxic effect on B16 melanoma cells in vitro and in vivo, and suggest a potential mechanism for these bioactivities. Therefore, we posit that MENK should be investigated, not only as a primary therapy for melanoma, but also as an adjuvant therapy in combination with chemotherapies.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Cycle Checkpoints / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Dendritic Cells / drug effects
  • Enkephalin, Methionine / administration & dosage*
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Interferon-gamma / genetics*
  • Interleukin-2 / genetics*
  • Melanoma, Experimental / drug therapy*
  • Melanoma, Experimental / genetics
  • Melanoma, Experimental / pathology
  • Mice
  • Naltrexone / administration & dosage
  • Tumor Burden / drug effects
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / genetics*


  • IFNG protein, mouse
  • Interleukin-2
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Enkephalin, Methionine
  • Naltrexone
  • Interferon-gamma