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Phytomedicine. 2012 Dec 15;20(1):3-8. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2012.09.003. Epub 2012 Oct 17.

Curcumin attenuates lipolysis stimulated by tumor necrosis factor-α or isoproterenol in 3T3-L1 adipocytes.

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Division of Geriatric Medicine, Tongji Hospital, Tongji University, Shanghai 200065, China.



Curcumin, an active component derived from dietary spice turmeric (Curcuma longa), has been demonstrated antihyperglycemic, antiinflammatory and hypocholesterolemic activities in obesity and diabetes. These effects are associated with decreased level of circulating free fatty acids (FFA), however the mechanism has not yet been elucidated. The flux of FFA and glycerol from adipose tissue to the blood stream primarily depends on the lipolysis of triacylglycerols in the adipocytes. Adipocyte lipolysis is physiologically stimulated by catecholamine hormones. Tumor necrosis factor-α (TNFα) stimulates chronic lipolysis in obesity and type 2 diabetes. In this study, we examined the role of curcumin in inhibiting lipolytic action upon various stimulations in 3T3-L1 adipocytes.


Glycerol release from TNFα or isoproterenol-stimulated 3T3-L1 adipocytes in the absence or presence of curcumin was determined using a colorimetric assay (GPO-Trinder). Western blotting was used to investigate the TNFα-induced phosphorylation of MAPK and perilipin expression. Fatcake and cytosolic fractions were prepared to examine the isoproterenol-stimulated hormone-sensitive lipase translocation.


Treatment with curcumin attenuated TNFα-mediated lipolysis by suppressing phosphorylation of extracellular signal-related kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2) and reversing the downregulation of perilipin protein in TNFα-stimulated adipocytes (p<0.05). The acute lipolytic response to adrenergic stimulation of isoproterenol was also restricted by curcumin (10-20 μM, p<0.05), which was compatible with reduced perilipin phosphorylation(29%, p<0.05) and hormone-sensitive lipase translocation(20%, p<0.05).


This study provides evidence that curcumin acts on adipocytes to suppress the lipolysis response to TNFα and catecholamines. The antilipolytic effect could be a cellular basis for curcumin decreasing plasma FFA levels and improving insulin sensitivity.

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