Induction of early apoptosis and ROS-generation activity in human gingival fibroblasts (HGF) and human submandibular gland carcinoma (HSG) cells treated with curcumin

Arch Oral Biol. 2006 Oct;51(10):913-21. doi: 10.1016/j.archoralbio.2006.03.016. Epub 2006 May 15.


Objective: Curcumin [1] is well known to possess apoptosis-inducing activity in some cancer cells, but little is known about its activity in normal cells of oral origin, such as HGF. The aim of the present study was to clarify the relationship between early apoptosis in HGF and the induction of reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation by curcumin.

Design: We treated HGF and HSG cells with curcumin [1] and the related compounds biseugenol [2], eugenol [3], alpha-diisoeugenol [4], and isoeugenol [5] and measured cell survival (MTT method), ROS generation (DCFH-DA staining), and induction of early apoptosis. Early apoptosis was detected by monitoring loss of mitochondrial membrane potential (DeltaPsi(m)) by JC-1 staining and externalization of phosphatidylserine (PS) on the cell surface by annexin V-FITC/PI staining combined with flow cytometry.

Results: The cytotoxic activities of curcumin [1] and [4] were similar and were nearly 10- to 100-fold stronger than those of the other compounds. Only curcumin was able to induce ROS generation and early apoptosis. Loss of DeltaPsi(m), PS externalization and ROS generation were significantly more pronounced in HGF cells than in HSG cells at curcumin concentrations lower than about 15microM, and were inhibited by the addition of the antioxidants N-acetyl-l-cysteine and glutathione.

Conclusion: The potent PS externalization and loss of DeltaPsi(m) in curcumin-treated HGF cells appears to be mediated by ROS generation.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Child
  • Curcumin / pharmacology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Fibroblasts / drug effects
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism
  • Gingiva / cytology
  • Gingiva / drug effects*
  • Gingiva / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Membrane Potential, Mitochondrial / drug effects
  • Phosphatidylserines / metabolism
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*
  • Submandibular Gland Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Submandibular Gland Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Phosphatidylserines
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Curcumin