Cigarette smoking is associated with an increased risk of melanoma metastasis. Smokers show higher PD-L1 expression and better responses to PD-1/PD-L1 inhibitors than nonsmokers. Here, we investigate whether nicotine, a primary constituent of tobacco, induces PD-L1 expression and promotes melanoma cell proliferation and migration, which is mediated by the α9 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (α9-nAChR). α9-nAChR overexpression in melanoma using melanoma cell lines, human melanoma tissues, and assessment of publicly available databases. α9-nAChR expression was significantly correlated with PD-L1 expression, clinical stage, lymph node status, and overall survival (OS). Overexpressing or knocking down α9-nAChR in melanoma cells up-or downregulated PD-L1 expression, respectively, and affected melanoma cell proliferation and migration. Nicotine-induced α9-nAChR activity promoted melanoma cell proliferation through stimulation of the α9-nAChR-mediated AKT and ERK signaling pathways. In addition, nicotine-induced α9-nAchR activity promoted melanoma cell migration via activation of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Moreover, PD-L1 expression was upregulated in melanoma cells after nicotine treatment via the transcription factor STAT3 binding to the PD-L1 promoter. These results highlight that nicotine-induced α9-nAChR activity promotes melanoma cell proliferation, migration, and PD-L1 upregulation. This study may reveal important insights into the mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1991
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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