Curcumin prevents tumor-induced T cell apoptosis through Stat-5a-mediated Bcl-2 induction

Sankar Bhattacharyya, Debaprasad Mandal, Baisakhi Saha, Gouri Sankar Sen, Tanya Das, Gaurisankar Sa
Journal of Biological Chemistry 2007 June 1, 282 (22): 15954-64
Patients with advanced cancer exhibit multifaceted defects in their immune capacity, which are likely to contribute to an increased susceptibility to infections and disease progression. We demonstrated earlier that curcumin inhibits tumor growth and prevents immune cell death in tumor-bearing hosts. Here we report that tumor-induced immunodepletion involves apoptosis of thymic CD4+/CD8+ single/double positive cells as well as loss of circulating CD4+/CD8+ T cells. Administration of curcumin to tumor-bearing animals resulted in restoration of progenitor, effecter, and circulating T cells. In fact, tumor burden decreased the expression level of the pro-proliferative protein Bcl-2 while increasing the pro-apoptotic protein Bax in T cells. Curcumin down-regulated the Bax level while augmenting Bcl-2 expression in these cells, thereby protecting the immunocytes from tumor-induced apoptosis. A search for the upstream mechanism revealed down-regulation of the common cytokine receptor gamma chain (gammac) expression in T cells by tumor-secreted prostaglandin E2. As a result, Jak-3 and Stat-5a phosphorylation and to a lesser extent Stat-5b phosphorylation were also decreased in T cells. These entire phenomena could be reverted back by curcumin, indicating that this phytochemical restored the cytokine-dependent Jak-3/Stat-5a signaling pathway in T cells of tumor bearers. Overexpressed Stat-5a/constitutively active Stat-5a1*6 but not Stat-5b could efficiently elevate Bcl-2 levels and protect T cells from tumor-induced death, whereas C-terminal truncated Stat-5a713 overexpression failed to do so, indicating the importance of Stat-5a signaling in T cell survival. Thus, these results raise the possibility of inclusion of curcumin in successful therapeutic regimens against cancer.

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