Curcumin-induced histone hypoacetylation: the role of reactive oxygen species

Biochem Pharmacol. 2005 Apr 15;69(8):1205-13. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2005.01.014.


Curcumin (Cur), a well-known dietary pigment derived from Curcuma longa, is a promising anticancer drug, but its in vivo target molecules remain to be clarified. Here we report that exposure of human hepatoma cells to Cur led to a significant decrease of histone acetylation. Histone acetyltransferase (HAT) and histone deacetylase (HDAC) are the enzymes controlling the state of histone acetylation in vivo. Cur treatment resulted in a comparable inhibition of histone acetylation in the absence or presence of trichostatin A (the specific HDAC inhibitor), and showed no effect on the in vitro activity of HDAC. In contrast, the domain negative of p300 (a most potent HAT protein) could block the inhibition of Cur on histone acetylation; and the Cur treatment significantly inhibited the HAT activity both in vivo and in vitro. Thus, it is HAT, but not HDAC that is involved in Cur-induced histone hypoacetylation. At the same time, exposure of cells to low or high concentrations of Cur diminished or enhanced the ROS generation, respectively. And the promotion of ROS was obviously involved in Cur-induced histone hypoacetylation, since Cur-caused histone acetylation and HAT activity decrease could be markedly diminished by the antioxidant enzymes, superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT) or their combination, but not by their heat-inactivated forms. The data presented here prove that HAT is one of the in vivo target molecules of Cur; through inhibiting its activity, Cur induces histone hypoacetylation in vivo, where the ROS generation plays an important role. Considering the critical roles of histone acetylation in eukaryotic gene transcription and the involvement of histone hypoacetylation in the lose of cell viability caused by high concentrations of Cur, these results open a new door for us to further understand the molecular mechanism involved in the in vivo function of Cur.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylation / drug effects*
  • Acetyltransferases / analysis
  • Acetyltransferases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Acetyltransferases / metabolism
  • Acetyltransferases / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Blotting, Western
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / enzymology
  • Catalase / metabolism
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / pharmacology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Curcumin / pharmacology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Histone Acetyltransferases
  • Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors
  • Histone Deacetylases / analysis
  • Histone Deacetylases / metabolism
  • Histones / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Hydroxamic Acids / pharmacology
  • Liver Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / analysis
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Superoxide Dismutase / metabolism
  • Time Factors
  • Transcription Factors / pharmacology
  • p300-CBP Transcription Factors


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors
  • Histones
  • Hydroxamic Acids
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Transcription Factors
  • trichostatin A
  • Catalase
  • Superoxide Dismutase
  • Acetyltransferases
  • Histone Acetyltransferases
  • p300-CBP Transcription Factors
  • p300-CBP-associated factor
  • Histone Deacetylases
  • Curcumin