Modulation of steroid activity in chronic inflammation: a novel anti-inflammatory role for curcumin

Mol Nutr Food Res. 2008 Sep;52(9):987-94. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.200700259.


The expression of NF-kappaB (NF-kappaB)-dependent pro-inflammatory genes in response to oxidative stress is regulated by the acetylation-deacetylation status of histones bound to the DNA. It has been suggested that in severe asthma and in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients, oxidative stress not only activates the NF-kappaB pathway but also alters the histone acetylation and deacetylation balance via post-translational modification of histone deacetylases (HDACs). Corticosteroids have been one of the major modes of therapy against various chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma and COPD. Failure of corticosteroids to ameliorate such disease conditions has been attributed to their inability to either recruit HDAC2 or to the presence of an oxidatively modified HDAC2 in asthmatics and COPD subjects. Naturally occurring polyphenols such as curcumin and resveratrol have been increasingly considered as safer nutraceuticals. Curcumin is a polyphenol present in the spice turmeric, which can directly scavenge free radicals such as superoxide anion and nitric oxide and modulate important signaling pathways mediated via NF-kappaB and mitogen-activated protein kinase pathways. Polyphenols also down-regulate expression of pro-inflammatory mediators, matrix metalloproteinases, adhesion molecules, and growth factor receptor genes and they up-regulate HDAC2 in the lung. Thus, curcumin may be a potential antioxidant and anti-inflammatory therapeutic agent against chronic inflammatory lung diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Retracted Publication
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use
  • Asthma / drug therapy
  • Curcumin / therapeutic use*
  • Gene Expression / drug effects
  • Glucocorticoids / physiology
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / drug therapy
  • Inflammation / physiopathology
  • NF-kappa B / drug effects
  • NF-kappa B / physiology
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / drug therapy
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Steroids / physiology*


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Antioxidants
  • Glucocorticoids
  • NF-kappa B
  • Steroids
  • Curcumin