Tobacco-related diseases such as lung cancer cause over 4.2 million deaths annually, with approximately 400,000 deaths per year occurring in the US. Genotoxic effects of tobacco components have been described, but effects on signaling pathways in normal cells have not been described. Here, we show activation of the serine/threonine kinase Akt in nonimmortalized human airway epithelial cells in vitro by two components of cigarette smoke, nicotine and the tobacco-specific carcinogen 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK). Activation of Akt by nicotine or NNK occurred within minutes at concentrations achievable by smokers and depended upon α3-/α4-containing or α7-containing nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, respectively. Activated Akt increased phosphorylation of downstream substrates such as GSK-3, p70S6K, 4EBP-1, and FKHR. Treatment with nicotine or NNK attenuated apoptosis caused by etoposide, ultraviolet irradiation, or hydrogen peroxide and partially induced a transformed phenotype manifest as loss of contact inhibition and loss of dependence on exogenous growth factors or adherence to ECM. In vivo, active Akt was detected in airway epithelial cells and lung tumors from NNK-treated A/J mice, and in human lung cancers derived from smokers. Redundant Akt activation by nicotine and NNK could contribute to tobacco-related carcinogenesis by regulating two processes critical for tumorigenesis, cell growth and apoptosis.
Kip A. West, John Brognard, Amy S. Clark, Ilona R. Linnoila, Xiaowei Yang, Sandra M. Swain, Curtis Harris, Steven Belinsky, Phillip A. Dennis
Guidelines: The Editorial Board will only consider letters that we deem relevant and of interest to our readers. We will not post data that have not been subjected to peer review, nor will we post letters that are essentially a reiteration of another letter. All accepted letters will be posted on our website within one week of acceptance. We reserve the right to edit any letter for length, content, and clarity. Authors of all accepted letters will be asked to preview any changes. Authors will be notified by e-mail if their letters were not accepted. As this is a final decision, no appeals will be considered.
Specific requirements: All letters must be 400 words or fewer. You may enter the letter as plain text or HTML. The author's name and e-mail address are required, and will be posted with the letter. All possible conflicts of interest must be noted, even if they are not posted. If you wish to include a figure (keep in mind that non-peer-reviewed data will not be posted), please contact the editors directly at email@example.com.