Curcumin (diferuloylmethane) induces apoptosis through activation of caspase-8, BID cleavage and cytochrome c release: its suppression by ectopic expression of Bcl-2 and Bcl-xl

Ruby John Anto, Asok Mukhopadhyay, Kate Denning, Bharat B Aggarwal
Carcinogenesis 2002, 23 (1): 143-50
Pharmacologically safe compounds that can inhibit the proliferation of tumor cells have potential as anticancer agents. Curcumin, a diferuloylmethane, is a major active component of the food flavor turmeric (Curcuma longa) that has been shown to inhibit the proliferation of a wide variety of tumor cells. The apoptotic intermediates through which curcumin exhibits its cytotoxic effects against tumor cells are not known, and the participation of antiapoptotic proteins Bcl-2 or Bcl-xl in the curcumin-induced apoptosis pathway is not established. In the present report we investigated the effect of curcumin on the activation of the apoptotic pathway in human acute myelogenous leukemia HL-60 cells and in established stable cell lines expressing Bcl-2 and Bcl-xl. Curcumin inhibited the growth of HL-60 cells (neo) in a dose- and time-dependent manner, whereas Bcl-2 and Bcl-xl-transfected cells were relatively resistant. Curcumin activated caspase-8 and caspase-3 in HL-60 neo cells but not in Bcl-2 and Bcl-xl-transfected cells. Similarly, time-dependent poly(ADP)ribose polymerase (PARP) cleavage by curcumin was observed in neo cells but not in Bcl-2 and Bcl-xl-transfected cells. Curcumin treatment also induced BID cleavage and mitochondrial cytochrome c release in neo cells but not in Bcl-2 and Bcl-xl-transfected cells. In neo HL-60 cells, curcumin also downregulated the expression of cyclooxygenase-2. Because DN-FLICE blocked curcumin-induced apoptosis, caspase-8 must play a critical role. Overall, our results indicate that curcumin induces apoptosis through mitochondrial pathway involving caspase-8, BID cleavage, cytochrome c release, and caspase-3 activation. Our results also suggest that Bcl-2 and Bcl-xl are critical negative regulators of curcumin-induced apoptosis.

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