Influence of fatty acid synthase inhibitor orlistat on the DNA repair enzyme O6-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase in human normal or malignant cells in vitro

Giorgia Cioccoloni, Laura Bonmassar, Elena Pagani, Simona Caporali, Maria Pia Fuggetta, Enzo Bonmassar, Stefania D'Atri, Angelo Aquino

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Tetrahydrolipstatin (orlistat), an inhibitor of lipases and fatty acid synthase, is used orally for long-term treatment of obesity. Although the drug possesses striking antitumor activities in vitro against human cancer cells and in vitro and in vivo against animal tumors, it also induces precancerous lesions in rat colon. Therefore, we tested the in vitro effect of orlistat on the expression of O6-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase (MGMT), a DNA repair enzyme that plays an essential role in the control of mutagenesis and carcinogenesis. Western blot analysis demonstrated that 2-day continuous exposure to 40 μM orlistat did not affect MGMT levels in a human melanoma cell line, but downregulated the repair protein by 30-70% in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells, in two leukemia and two colon cancer cell lines. On the other hand, orlistat did not alter noticeably MGMT mRNA expression. Differently from lomeguatrib (a false substrate, strong inhibitor of MGMT) orlistat did not reduce substantially MGMT function after 2-h exposure of target cells to the agent, suggesting that this drug is not a competitive inhibitor of the repair protein. Combined treatment with orlistat and lomeguatrib showed additive reduction of MGMT levels. More importantly, orlistat-mediated downregulation of MGMT protein expression was markedly amplified when the drug was combined with a DNA methylating agent endowed with carcinogenic properties such as temozolomide. In conclusion, even if orlistat is scarcely absorbed by oral route, it is possible that this drug could reduce local MGMT-mediated protection against DNA damage provoked by DNA methylating compounds on gastrointestinal tract epithelial cells, thus favoring chemical carcinogenesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)764-772
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Oncology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1 2015


  • Anti-obesity drugs
  • Carcinogenesis
  • DNA repair
  • Lomeguatrib
  • MGMT inhibitors
  • O<sup>6</sup>-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase
  • Orlistat
  • Temozolomide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology

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