Epidemiologic and animal studies revealed that capsaicin can act as a carcinogen or cocarcinogen. However, the molecular mechanisms of the cancer-promoting effects of capsaicin are not clear. Here, we report that capsaicin has a cocarcinogenic effect on 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA)-promoted skin carcinogenesis in vivo and is mediated through the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), but not the transient receptor potential vanilloid subfamily member 1 (TRPV1). Topical application of capsaicin on the dorsal skin of 7,12-dimetylbenz(a)anthracene-initiated and TPA-promoted TRPV1 wild-type (WT) and TRPV1 knockout (KO) mice induced more and larger skin tumors in TRPV1/KO mice, suggesting a TRPV1-independent mechanism. Cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) was highly elevated by capsaicin treatment in tumors and murine embryonic fibroblasts from TRPV1/KO mice. Inhibitors of EGFR/MEK signaling suppressed TPA/capsaicin-induced COX-2 expression in TRPV1/KO cells, indicating that activation of EGFR and its downstream signaling is involved in COX-2 elevation. Capsaicin induced a further induction of TPA-increased COX-2 expression in EGFR/WT cells, but not in EGFR/KO cells. TPA/capsaicin cotreatment caused EGFR tyrosine phosphorylation and activated EGFR downstream signaling, including ERKs and Akt in EGFR/WT, but not EGFR/KO cells. Specific inhibition of EGFR and TRPV1 indicated that capsaicin-induced ERK activation in A431 cells was dependent on EGFR, but not TRPV1. Together, these findings suggest that capsaicin might act as a cocarcinogen in TPA-induced skin carcinogenesis through EGFR-dependent mechanisms.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cancer Research