Etiopathology Of Oral Submucous Fibrosis : Role Of Areca Nut Constituents And Transforming Growth Factor-β Signalling
Oral Submucous Fibrosis (OSF) is a chronic inflammatory disease resulting in progressive fibrosis of the oral tissues that can cause difficulty in chewing, swallowing, speaking, and mouth opening. Epidemiological studies have shown that OSF is a precancerous condition and 2-8% of the OSF patients develop squamous cell carcinoma. This disease affects 0.5% of the population in the Indian subcontinent and is now a growing public health issue in many parts of the world. Habit of chewing betel quid has been proposed as an important etiological factor in the development of this disease and is coline, a principle alkaloid of areca nut is considered as major causative factor for OSF development. But the exact molecular mechanism of OSF pathogenesis is not known. Therefore, we set the following objectives for this study: 1) Gene expression profiling of OSF using microarray. 2) Role of areca nut constituents in OSF pathogenesis. 3) Effect of areca nut on epithelial and fibroblast cells. In order to delineate the possible molecular mechanism of OSF pathogenesis, we took microarray approach and identified differentially regulated genes in ten OSF tissues against eight pooled normals using whole human genome oligonucleotide arrays. Microarray results revealed differential expression of 5288 genes (p≤0.05 and Fold change≥1.5), among them 2884 were up-regulated and 2404 were down-regulated. Validation employing quantitative real-time PCR and immunohistochemistry confirmed up-regulation of transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1), TGFBI, THBS1, SPP1, TIG1 and down-regulation of bone morphogenic protein 7 (BMP7), C4orf7 and ALOX12 in OSF tissues. Furthermore, activation of TGF-β pathway was evident in OSF tissues as demonstrated by p-SMAD2 strong immunoreactivity. Analysis of IHC data showed that in all the normal tissues and in 70% of the OSF tissues the expression of TGF-β and BMP7 are inversely correlated. In good correlation, treatment of keratinocytes (HaCaT) by TGF-βdown-regulated BMP7, while BMP7 expression could not be detected in fibroblast cells. Hence, the imbalance between TGF-βand BMP7 signalling, which are positive and negative modulators of extracellular matrix production, respectively may trigger the manifestation of OSF. We also studied the regulation few genes (CTGF, TGM2 and THBS1) identified in OSF microarray in response to TGF-βand arecoline. TGF-βwas able to induce all the above genes in both HaCaT and hGF cells but arecoline could only induce TGM2 in hGF and THBS1 in HaCaT. Therefore TGF-βpathway came out to be the most important pathway in OSF microarray and subsequent validations. But areca nut constituents responsible for TGF-βpathway activation and the source (epithelial or fibroblast cells) through which it activates TGF-βare not known. In an attempt to understand the role of areca nut and its constituents in inducing TGF-βsignalling in epithelial cells, we performed microarray on epithelial cells (HaCaT) treated with areca nut water extract. Surprisingly, 64% of the differentially regulated genes by areca nut water extract matched with TGF-βinduced gene expression profile. To find out areca nut induced genes through TGF-β, epithelial cells were treated with areca nut in presence of ALK5 (TβRI) inhibitor. Out of 64% differentially induced genes, 57% genes induced by areca nut got compromised in presence of ALK5 and 7% were independently induced by areca nut, highlighting the effect of areca nut via TGF-β. Accordingly, areca nut treatment induced both p-SMAD2 and TGF-βdownstream targets TGFBI, TGM2, TMEPAI and THBS1 in HaCaT cells. One possible mechanism of TGF-βsignalling induction by areca nut could be via induced ligand (TGF-β2) and its activator (THBS1). Induction of TGF-β2 ligand by areca nut was shown at both RNA (Real Time) and protein (ELISA) levels. To find out areca nut components responsible for inducing TGF-β signalling, areca nut fractionation was performed which gave three fractions namely, Ethyl acetate (polyphenol), water supernatant (alkaloids) and Dichloromethane (impurity). Out of these; polyphenol and alkaloid fractions were found to be responsible for the induction of TGF-β signalling and its downstream targets. Upon treatment with purified components, catechin and tannin of polyphenol fraction and arecoline, arecaidine and guvacine of alkaloid fraction were found to be responsible for inducing TGF-β signalling, as seen by increased appearance of phopho-SMAD2 in HaCaT cells. Areca nut treatment on human gingival fibroblast cells (hGF) did not induce TGF-β signalling, highlighting that the source of TGF-β induction by areca nut could possibly be the epithelium. Further treatment of areca nut along with TGF-β on hGF cells potentiated TGF-β effect both in terms of TGF-β downstream targets like TGFBI, TGM2, TMEPAI, COL1A1 etc and activation of fibroblast by inducing α-SMA. Increasing concentration of areca nut is cytotoxic on HaCaT cells and pro-proliferative on hGF cells. This could provide a possible explanation for epithelial atrophy and proliferating fibroblast cells in connective tissue of OSF patients. Further exploration on HaCaT cell cytotoxicity by areca nut suggests the involvement of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) as a key molecule induced by areca nut. Compromising ROS generation by NAC (N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine) led to reversal of Sub-G1 peak induced by areca nut in HaCaT cells. This highlighted that cell death caused by areca nut could be ROS mediated. Areca nut treatment on hGF cells did not induce ROS generation, leading to no cytotoxicity on these cells. A possible explanation of this differential ROS generation can be due to dose dependent suppression of Catalase activity by areca nut in HaCaT cells but not in hGF cells. We also compared cytotoxicity of areca nut with all the alkaloids and found a good match with arecoline as both of them induce ROS, apoptotic ladder formation, annexin V positivity, suppression of Catalase activity and the cell death induced by them was compromised by NAC. The above results indicated that arecoline could be a mediator of areca nut water extract cytotoxicity on HaCaT cells. Betel nut chewer’s oral epithelium gets regularly exposed to areca nut and hence this exposure could be cytotoxic to oral epithelial cells too. We performed Terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick end labeling (TUNEL) in normal and OSF tissues. Our data showed 62.5% of OSF patients having significant percentage of epithelial cells with TUNEL positivity (Labeling index = 2-60%) compared to all normal tissues that were TUNEL negative. TUNEL positivity was predominantly seen in the upper keratin and supra basal layer of the epithelium. We also studied proliferation status of OSF epithelium and observed that 3-17% (LI) of epithelial cells in all normal tissues showed Ki-67 positivity in the germinal layer of epithelium. However, 65% of the OSF patients showed staining for Ki-67 (LI=.2-58%) in their epithelium. Also analysis of TUNEL positive and Ki-67 positive sections indicated that OSF patients with high TUNEL positivity have high Ki-67 labeling index, but stains in the supra basal or keratin layer (TUNEL) and basal layer (Ki-67) of epithelium respectively. This induced proliferation of epithelial cells could be the result of heavy apoptosis in the outer epithelium. But as these patients are regularly exposed to areca nut, this increased proliferation may not be able to cope up with the heavy apoptosis induced by areca nut, leading to atrophied epithelium. To understand the germinal status of OSF atrophied epithelium we performed staining for OCT4 in OSF tissues. To our surprise there were no OCT4 positive nuclei in the epithelium of 53% of OSF patients but a regular spread of OCT4 positivity has been seen in the epithelium of normal subjects. In conclusion, this thesis highlights the involvement of TGF-β pathway in OSF patho-physiology. In addition, activation of TGF-β pathway by areca nut constituents has been demonstrated. Moreover, the atrophied epithelium of OSF appears to be a consequence of apoptosis and stem cell deprivation. Taken together, areca nut perhaps causes atrophy of the epithelium and activates TGF-β pathway that may lead to manifestation of OSF.