Journal Article

Curcumin induces c-jun N-terminal kinase-dependent apoptosis in HCT116 human colon cancer cells

Gavin P. Collett and Frederick Charles Campbell

in Carcinogenesis

Volume 25, issue 11, pages 2183-2189
Published in print November 2004 | ISSN: 0143-3334
Published online November 2004 | e-ISSN: 1460-2180 | DOI:
Curcumin induces c-jun N-terminal kinase-dependent apoptosis in HCT116 human colon cancer cells

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  • Clinical Cytogenetics and Molecular Genetics


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Curcumin, the major pigment of the dietary spice turmeric has the potential for chemoprevention by promotion of apoptosis. Mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and NF-kappa B (NFκB) signalling cascades are thought to regulate apoptosis and cell survival. While curcumin inhibits NFκB, its effects upon the MAPK pathways are unclear. This study investigates curcumin effects upon MAPK signalling and apoptosis in HCT116 cells. Here we report that curcumin time- and dose-dependent induction of apoptosis were accompanied by sustained phosphorylation and activation of c-jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) and p38 MAPK as well as inhibition of constitutive NFκB transcriptional activity. Curcumin treatment also induced JNK-dependent sustained phosphorylation of c-jun and stimulation of AP-1 transcriptional activity. Curcumin-mediated c-jun phosphorylation and apoptosis were reduced by treatment with the JNK-specific inhibitor SP600125. Conversely, the p38-specific inhibitor SB203580 had no effect upon curcumin-induced apoptosis. Curcumin treatment had no effect on the activity of extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase (ERK). Taken together, our data show for the first time that JNK, but not p38 or ERK signalling, plays an important role in curcumin-mediated apoptosis in human colon cancer cells that may underlie its chemopreventive effects.

Keywords: ATF-2, activating transcription factor 2; ERK, extracellular signal-regulated kinase; ISEL, in situ end-labelling; JNK, c-jun N-terminal kinase; MAPK, mitogen-activated protein kinase; MTT, 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazoliumbromide; NFκB, nuclear factor kappaB; PARP, poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase

Journal Article.  4903 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Clinical Cytogenetics and Molecular Genetics

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