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Lab Invest. 2009 Dec;89(12):1397-409. doi: 10.1038/labinvest.2009.115. Epub 2009 Oct 19.

Curcumin attenuates the effects of insulin on stimulating hepatic stellate cell activation by interrupting insulin signaling and attenuating oxidative stress.

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Department of Pathology, Saint Louis University, MO 63104, USA.


Hyperinsulinemia associated with type II diabetes mellitus (T2DM) is a risk factor for non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and hepatic fibrosis. Hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) are the major effectors in collagen production during hepatic fibrogenesis. Elevated levels of insulin stimulate HSC activation. In addition to its anti-diabetic effects, the antioxidant curcumin, the yellow pigment in curry from turmeric, suppresses HSC activation and protects the liver from fibrogenesis in vitro and in vivo. This study aims at evaluating the effect of curcumin on insulin-induced HSC activation and further elucidating the underlying mechanisms. We report that curcumin dose-dependently eliminates insulin-induced HSC activation by suppressing expression of type I collagen gene and other key genes relevant to HSC activation. Additional experiments indicate that curcumin interrupts insulin signaling in HSCs by reducing the phosphorylation level of insulin receptor (InsR) and suppressing gene expression of InsR. Furthermore, curcumin attenuates insulin-induced oxidative stress in HSCs by inducing gene expression of glutamate-cysteine ligase (GCL), leading to de novo synthesis of glutathione and the suppression of gene expression of InsR. These results support our initial hypothesis that curcumin inhibits the effects of insulin on stimulating HSC activation by interrupting insulin signaling and attenuating oxidative stress. Our results provide novel insights into the mechanisms by which curcumin inhibits the insulin-induced HSC activation.

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