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Br J Pharmacol. 1999 Sep;128(2):380-4.

Curcumin inhibits Th1 cytokine profile in CD4+ T cells by suppressing interleukin-12 production in macrophages.

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College of Pharmacy, Chonnam National University, Kwangju 500-757, South Korea.


1 Interleukin-12 (IL-12) plays a central role in the immune system by driving the immune response towards T helper 1 (Th1) type responses which are characterized by high IFN-gamma and low IL-4 production. In this study we investigated the effects of curcumin, a natural product of plants obtained from Curcuma longa (turmeric), on IL-12 production by mouse splenic macrophages and the subsequent ability of these cells to regulate cytokine production by CD4+ T cells. 2 Pretreatment with curcumin significantly inhibited IL-12 production by macrophages stimulated with either lipopolysaccharide (LPS) or head-killed Listeria monocytogenes (HKL). 3 Curcumin-pretreated macrophages reduced their ability to induce IFN-gamma and increased the ability to induce IL-4 in Ag-primed CD4+ T cells. Addition of recombinant IL-12 to cultures of curcumin-pretreated macrophages and CD4+ T cells restored IFN-gamma production in CD4+ T cells. 4 The in vivo administration of curcumin resulted in the inhibition of IL-12 production by macrophages stimulated in vitro with either LPS or HKL, leading to the inhibition of Th1 cytokine profile (decreased IFN-gamma and increased IL-4 production) in CD4+ T cells. 5 These findings suggest that curcumin may inhibit Th1 cytokine profile in CD4+ T cells by suppressing IL-12 production in macrophages, and points to a possible therapeutic use of curcumin in the Th1-mediated immune diseases.

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