Multidrug resistance (MDR) is the resistance of cells toward various drugs commonly used in tumor treatment. The mechanism of drug resistance in oral cancer is not completely understood. Melatonin is an endogenously produced molecule involved in active biological mechanisms including antiproliferation, oncogene expression modulation, antitumor invasion and migration, and anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antiangiogenic effects. Despite these functions, the effects of melatonin on vincristine (VCR)-resistant human oral cancer cells remain largely unknown. This study analyzed the role of melatonin in VCR-resistant human oral cancer cells along with the underlying mechanism. We determined that melatonin induced the apoptosis and autophagy of VCR-resistant oral cancer cells; these actions were mediated by AKT, p38, and c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK). Melatonin inhibited ATP-binding cassette B1 (ABCB1) and ABCB4 expression in vitro and in vivo. Melatonin reduced the drug resistance and promoted the apoptosis of VCR-resistant oral cancer cells through the upregulation of microRNA-892a (miR-892a) and miR-34b-5p expressions. The expression of miR-892a and miR-34b-5p was related to melatonin-induced apoptosis, but not autophagy. Therefore, melatonin is a potential novel chemotherapeutic agent for VCR-resistant human oral cancer cell lines.
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