Research Highlight

Oral cancer marker

doi:10.1038/nindia.2009.288 Published online 8 September 2009

The researchers (left to right): Jayasha Shandilya, Kodaganur S. Gopinath & Tapas Kundu.

An important protein for several cellular processes in humans – the histone chaperone NPM1 – upon acetalysation by an enzyme, could trigger the expression of genes responsible for the manifestation of oral cancer1.

For the first time, researchers have found a link between acetylation of the histone chaperone NPM1 and manifestation of oral cancer. There is a drastic increase in the level of acetylated NPM1 in malignant oral tissues and this might serve as a diagnostic marker for oral cancer progression. Abnormal acetylation could be a potential therapeutic target.

The researchers studied samples of oral cancer, one of the most prevalent cancers in India. They found that NPM1 is overexpressed in oral tumor tissues but not in normal tissues. Remarkably, a significant increase in acetylated NPM1 level was also detected in advanced stages of oral tumors compared to pre-malignant stages.

In oral cancer cells, knockdown of NPM1 expression (by siRNA mediated gene silencing) resulted in the differential expression of several genes responsible for carcinogenesis. "Further analysis suggests that indeed acetylated NPM1 is essential for the expression of genes involved in the establishment of oral cancer," says one of the researchers Tapas Kundu.

The authors of this work are from: Molecular Biology and Genetics Unit, Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Bangalore, India and Bangalore Institute of Oncology, Bangalore, India.


  1. Shandilya, J. et al. Acetylated NPM1 localizes in the Nucleoplasm and Regulates Transcriptional Activation of Genes Implicated in Oral Cancer Manifestation. Mol. Cell. Biol. 29, 5115-5127 (2009) | Article