Enhanced apoptosis mediates inhibition of EBV-transformed lymphoblastoid cell line proliferation by curcumin

J Surg Res. 1999 Nov;87(1):1-5. doi: 10.1006/jsre.1999.5719.


Background: Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-associated B-cell lymphomas occur more frequently in immunodeficient states such as organ transplantation and HIV infection. We have previously reported that B cell immortalization with EBV was promoted by cyclosporin A (CyA) and that curcumin (Cur), a natural phenol with known antioxidant and antitumor properties, blocked EBV-induced B cell immortalization. In the following experiments we show that Cur inhibits the proliferation of EBV-transformed lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCL) via enhanced apoptosis.

Methods: LCL were generated by infecting freshly isolated human B cells with EBV (B95-8) for 12 h and coculturing with predetermined optimal concentrations of CyA (500 ng/ml) for 4 weeks. LCL were then either frozen for future use or propagated for immediate experiments. These cells were then plated in 96-well plates with 20 microM Cur or 0.1% DMSO (vehicle control). The number of immortalized colonies/well, cell count, and (3)H uptake were used as an index of immortalization. To assess apoptosis rate LCL were cultured with 0.1% DMSO or Cur (20 microM) for 0, 18, and 42 h in culture flasks and then stained with MC540 and H33342, as markers for apoptosis, and analyzed by FACS.

Results: A profound inhibition of proliferation was seen in the LCL with 20 microM curcumin compared to 0.1% DMSO control. The colony count reduced from 34.5 +/- 3.4 to 0/well (P = 0.005), cell number reduced from 101,250 +/- 12,093 to 3750 +/- 1500/well (P = 0.002), and (3)H uptake reduced from 40,889 +/- 3669 to 70 +/- 5.2/well (P = 0.001). The apoptosis rate of LCL in the DMSO control at 24.07 and 16.87% increased significantly with 20 microM Cur to 76.4 and 95.1% at 18 and 42 h, respectively (P = 0.02).

Conclusion: Cur is a potent inhibitor of EBV-transformed LCL. This effect appears to be mediated through enhanced apoptosis. A further investigation of this effect may be useful in prevention and therapy of B-cell lymphoma in immunodeficient patients.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • B-Lymphocytes / drug effects*
  • B-Lymphocytes / physiology
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Cell Line, Transformed
  • Curcumin / pharmacology*
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human
  • Humans
  • Lymphocyte Activation / drug effects*
  • Lymphoma, B-Cell / drug therapy*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Curcumin