Cisplatin (CDDP) is an important anti-cancer drug commonly used in various human cancers, including nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC). How to overcome the drug resistance of CDDP provides opportunities to improve clinical outcomes of NPC. O6-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase (MGMT) has been well-characterized to be a therapeutic determinant of O6-alkylguanine alkylating drugs. However, the underlying mechanism and clinical relevance between MGMT and CDDP remain poorly defined in NPC. In this study, we showed that MGMT-proficient cells were highly resistant to the cytotoxic effects of CDDP as compared to MGMT-deficient cells. Further studies showed that the platinum level of DNA after CDDP exposure was significantly lower in MGMT-proficient cells than in MGMT-deficient cells. Host cell reactivation assay revealed that MGMT protected NPC cells from CDDP-induced DNA damage by enhancing DNA repair capacity. Importantly, we demonstrated for the first time that MGMT protein directly bound to CDDP-induced DNA damages. Subsequently, CDDP-bound MGMT protein became ubiquitinated and was degraded through ubiquitin-mediated proteasome system. We further analyzed the relationship between MGMT expression and clinical survivals in a cohort of 83 NPC patients. NPC patients who received CDDP-based concurrent chemoradiotherapy (CCRT), with high MGMT expression level, exhibited shorter progression-free survival (PFS; p=0.022) and overall survival (OS; p=0.015), than patients with low MGMT expression level. Furthermore, high MGMT expression level remained to be an independent prognostic factor for worse PFS (p=0.01, hazard ratio 2.23) and OS (p=0.018, hazard ratio 2.14). Our findings suggest that MGMT protein is important to determine the efficacy of CDDP in NPC.
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