Curcuminoids form reactive glucuronides in vitro

J Agric Food Chem. 2007 Jan 24;55(2):538-44. doi: 10.1021/jf0623283.


Curcumin is of current interest because of its putative anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic, and anti-Alzheimer's activity, but its pharmacokinetic and metabolic fate is poorly understood. The present in vitro study has therefore been conducted on the glucuronidation of curcumin and its major phase I metabolite, hexahydro-curcumin, as well as of various natural and artificial analogs. The predominant glucuronide generated by rat and human liver microsomes from curcumin, hexahydro-curcumin, and other analogs with a phenolic hydroxyl group was a phenolic glucuronide according to LC-MS/MS analysis. However, a second glucuronide carrying the glucuronic acid moiety at the alcoholic hydroxyl group was formed from the same curcuminoids, but not hexahydro-curcuminoids, by human microsomes. Curcuminoids without a phenolic hydroxyl group gave rise to the aliphatic glucuronide only. The phenolic glucuronides of curcuminoids, but not of hexahydro-curcuminoids, were rather lipophilic and, in part, unstable in aqueous solution, their stability depending strongly on the type of aromatic substitution. The phenolic glucuronide of curcumin and of its natural congeners, but not the parent compounds, clearly inhibited the assembly of microtubule proteins under cell-free conditions, implying chemical reactivity of the glucuronides. These novel properties of the major phase II metabolites of curcuminoids deserve further investigation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Curcumin / analogs & derivatives
  • Curcumin / metabolism*
  • Curcumin / pharmacology
  • Glucuronides / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Microsomes, Liver / metabolism
  • Microtubule Proteins / drug effects
  • Microtubule Proteins / metabolism
  • Phenols / metabolism
  • Phenols / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Glucuronides
  • Microtubule Proteins
  • Phenols
  • Curcumin