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Mol Cancer Ther. 2008 Oct;7(10):3318-29. doi: 10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-08-0541.

Curcumin suppresses constitutive activation of nuclear factor-kappa B and requires functional Bax to induce apoptosis in Burkitt's lymphoma cell lines.

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Department of Human Cancer Genomic Research, King Fahad National Center for Children's Cancer and Research, King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center, MBC 98-16, P.O. Box 3354, Riyadh 11211, Saudi Arabia.


We provide evidence that curcumin, a natural compound isolated from rhizomes of plant Curcuma longa, induces apoptosis in several Burkitt's lymphoma cell lines expressing Bax protein (AS283A, KK124, and Pa682PB), whereas it has no effects in cell lines with no Bax expression (BML895 and CA46). Our data show that curcumin treatment results in down-regulation of constitutive activation of nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB) via generation of reactive oxygen species where it causes conformational changes in Bax protein leading to loss of mitochondrial membrane potential and release of cytochrome c to the cytosol. This leads to activation of caspase-9, caspase-3, and poly(ADP)-ribose polymerase cleavage leading to caspase-dependent apoptosis. In addition, curcumin treatment of Burkitt's lymphoma cell lines also causes up-regulation of DR5; however, this up-regulation does not result in apoptosis. Importantly, cotreatment with curcumin and TRAIL induces apoptosis in Bax-deficient cell lines. Taken together, our findings suggest that curcumin is able to induce apoptosis in Bax-positive cell lines, whereas combinations with TRAIL result in apoptosis in Bax-negative cell lines. These findings also raise the possibility that incorporation of curcumin in treatment regimens may provide a novel approach for the treatment of Burkitt's lymphomas and provide the molecular basis for such future translational efforts.

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