Reactions of superoxide radicals with curcumin: probable mechanisms by optical spectroscopy and EPR

Free Radic Res. 2004 Apr;38(4):355-62. doi: 10.1080/10715760310001660259.


Reactions of superoxide-crown ether complex with curcumin have been studied in acetonitrile. Optical absorption spectra showed that curcumin on reaction with superoxide forms a blue color intermediate absorbing at 560 nm, which subsequently decayed in a few hours with the development of the absorption band corresponding to the parent curcumin. The regeneration was 100% at low superoxide concentrations (1:1, or 1:2 or 1:3 of curcumin:superoxide) but reduced to 60% at high superoxide concentration (>1:5). The regeneration of curcumin is confirmed by HPLC analysis. Stopped-flow studies in acetonitrile following either the decay of parent curcumin at 420 nm or formation of 560 nm absorption have been used to determine the rate constant for the reaction of superoxide with curcumin. EPR studies confirmed the disappearance of characteristic superoxide signal in presence of curcumin with the formation of new featureless signal with g = 2.0067. Based on these studies it is concluded that at low superoxide concentrations curcumin effectively causes superoxide dismutation without itself undergoing any chemical change. At higher concentrations of superoxide, curcumin inhibits superoxide activity by reacting with it.

MeSH terms

  • Acetonitriles / chemistry
  • Antioxidants / chemistry
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Curcumin / chemistry*
  • Electron Spin Resonance Spectroscopy / methods*
  • Free Radicals*
  • Ions
  • Models, Chemical
  • Spectrophotometry / methods*
  • Superoxides / chemistry*
  • Temperature


  • Acetonitriles
  • Antioxidants
  • Free Radicals
  • Ions
  • Superoxides
  • Curcumin
  • acetonitrile