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Free Radic Biol Med. 2007 Aug 15;43(4):568-80. Epub 2007 May 16.

Role of pro-oxidants and antioxidants in the anti-inflammatory and apoptotic effects of curcumin (diferuloylmethane).

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Cytokine Research Laboratory, Department of Experimental Therapeutics, Box 143, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


Extensive research within the past half-century has indicated that curcumin (diferuloylmethane), a yellow pigment in curry powder, exhibits antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and proapoptotic activities. We investigated whether the anti-inflammatory and proapoptotic activities assigned to curcumin are mediated through its prooxidant/antioxidant mechanism. We found that TNF-mediated NF-kappaB activation was inhibited by curcumin; and glutathione reversed the inhibition. Similarly, suppression of TNF-induced AKT activation by curcumin was also abrogated by glutathione. The reducing agent also counteracted the inhibitory effects of curcumin on TNF-induced NF-kappaB-regulated antiapoptotic (Bcl-2, Bcl-xL, IAP1), proliferative (cyclin D1), and proinflammatory (COX-2, iNOS, and MMP-9) gene products. The suppression of TNF-induced AP-1 activation by curcumin was also reversed by glutathione. Also, the direct proapoptotic effects of curcumin were inhibited by glutathione and potentiated by depletion of intracellular glutathione by buthionine sulfoximine. Moreover, curcumin induced the production of reactive oxygen species and modulated intracellular GSH levels. Quenchers of hydroxyl radicals, however, were ineffective in inhibiting curcumin-mediated NF-kappaB suppression. Further, N-acetylcysteine partially reversed the effect of curcumin. Based on these results we conclude that curcumin mediates its apoptotic and anti-inflammatory activities through modulation of the redox status of the cell.

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