Antitumor action of curcumin in human papillomavirus associated cells involves downregulation of viral oncogenes, prevention of NFkB and AP-1 translocation, and modulation of apoptosis

Mol Carcinog. 2006 May;45(5):320-32. doi: 10.1002/mc.20170.


Curcumin (diferuloyl methane), the major yellow pigment from the rhizomes of turmeric (Curcuma longa Linn), has anticancer properties. Infection with high-risk human papillomaviruses (HPV) leads to development of cervical carcinoma, predominantly through the action of viral oncoproteins E6 and E7. The present study aims at analyzing the antitumor and antiviral properties of curcumin, on HPV associated cervical cancer cells. Our findings indicate curcumin to be cytotoxic to cervical cancer cells in a concentration-dependent and time-dependent manner. The cytotoxic activity was selectively more in HPV16 and HPV18 infected cells compared to non-HPV infected cells. Balance between tumor cell proliferation and spontaneous cell death via apoptosis had an important role in regulation of tumor cell growth. Curcumin-induced apoptosis in cervical cancer cells. Morphological hallmarks of apoptosis such as nuclear fragmentation and internucleosomal fragmentation of DNA were observed. Curcumin also selectively inhibited expression of viral oncogenes E6 and E7, evident from RT-PCR and Western blotting data. Electrophoretic mobility shift assay revealed that activation of NFkappaB-induced by TNFalpha is down regulated by curcumin. Curcumin blocked IkBalpha phosphorylation and degradation, leading to abrogation of NFkappaB activation. Curcumin also down regulated the expression of COX-2, a gene regulated by NFkappaB. Binding of AP-1, an indispensable component for efficient epithelial tissue-specific gene expression of HPV was also selectively down regulated by curcumin. These results provide attractive data for the possible use of curcumin in the management of HPV associated tumors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Curcumin / pharmacology*
  • Cyclooxygenase 2
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Down-Regulation
  • Electrophoretic Mobility Shift Assay
  • Epidermal Growth Factor / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • NF-kappa B / genetics
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism*
  • Oncogene Proteins, Viral / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Oncogene Proteins, Viral / genetics
  • Oncogene Proteins, Viral / metabolism*
  • Papillomaviridae / drug effects
  • Papillomaviridae / genetics
  • Papillomavirus Infections / drug therapy*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / metabolism
  • Papillomavirus Infections / virology
  • Protein Transport
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / genetics
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / metabolism
  • Repressor Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Repressor Proteins / genetics
  • Repressor Proteins / metabolism
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Transcription Factor AP-1 / genetics
  • Transcription Factor AP-1 / metabolism*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / pharmacology
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / virology


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • E6 protein, Human papillomavirus type 16
  • E6 protein, Human papillomavirus type 18
  • E7 protein, Human papillomavirus type 18
  • NF-kappa B
  • Oncogene Proteins, Viral
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Transcription Factor AP-1
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Epidermal Growth Factor
  • Cyclooxygenase 2
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • Curcumin