AKR1C1 as a biomarker for differentiating the biological effects of combustible from non-combustible tobacco products
Smoking has been established as a major risk factor for developing oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC), but less attention has been paid to the effects of smokeless tobacco products. Our objective is to identify potential biomarkers to distinguish the biological effects of combustible tobacco products from those of non-combustible using oral cell lines. Normal human gingival epithelial cells (HGEC), non-metastatic (101A) and metastatic (101B) OSCC cell lines were exposed to different tobacco product preparations (TPPs) including cigarette smoke total particulate matter (TPM), whole-smoke conditioned media (WS-CM), smokeless tobacco extract in complete artificial saliva (STE), or nicotine (NIC) alone. We performed microarray-based gene expression profiling and found 3456 probe sets from 101A, 1432 probe sets from 101B, and 2717 probe sets from HGEC to be differentially expressed. Gene Set Enrichment Analysis (GSEA) revealed xenobiotic metabolism and steroid biosynthesis were the top two pathways that were upregulated by combustible but not by non-combustible TPPs. Notably, aldo-keto reductase genes, AKR1C1 and AKR1C2, were the core genes in the top enriched pathways and were statistically upregulated more than 8-fold by combustible TPPs. Quantitative RT-PCR results statistically support AKR1C1 as a potential biomarker for differentiating the biological effects of combustible from non-combustible tobacco products.