Detoxification and antioxidant effects of curcumin in rats experimentally exposed to mercury

J Appl Toxicol. 2010 Jul;30(5):457-68. doi: 10.1002/jat.1517.


Curcumin, a safe nutritional component and a highly promising natural antioxidant with a wide spectrum of biological functions, has been examined in several metal toxicity studies, but its role in protection against mercury toxicity has not been investigated. Therefore, the detoxification and antioxidant effects of curcumin were examined to determine its prophylactic/therapeutic role in rats experimentally exposed to mercury (in the from of mercuric chloride-HgCl(2), 12 micromol kg(-1) b.w. single intraperitoneal injection). Curcumin treatment (80 mg kg(-1) b.w. daily for 3 days, orally) was found to have a protective effect on mercury-induced oxidative stress parameters, namely, lipid peroxidation and glutathione levels and superoxide dismutase, glutathione peroxidase and catalase activities in the liver, kidney and brain. Curcumin treatment was also effective for reversing mercury-induced serum biochemical changes, which are the markers of liver and kidney injury. Mercury concentration in the tissues was also decreased by the pre/post-treatment with curcumin. However, histopathological alterations in the liver and kidney were not reversed by curcumin treatment. Mercury exposure resulted in the induction of metallothionein (MT) mRNA expressions in the liver and kidney. Metallothionein mRNA expression levels were found to decrease after the pre-treatment with curcumin, whereas post-treatment with curcumin further increased MT mRNA expression levels. Our findings suggest that curcumin pretreatment has a protective effect and that curcumin can be used as a therapeutic agent in mercury intoxication. The study indicates that curcumin, an effective antioxidant, may have a protective effect through its routine dietary intake against mercury exposure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Curcumin / pharmacology*
  • Disinfectants / pharmacokinetics
  • Disinfectants / toxicity*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Gene Expression / drug effects
  • Glutathione / metabolism
  • Inactivation, Metabolic
  • Kidney / drug effects
  • Kidney / metabolism
  • Kidney / pathology
  • Lipid Peroxidation / drug effects
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Liver / pathology
  • Male
  • Malondialdehyde / metabolism
  • Mercuric Chloride / pharmacokinetics
  • Mercuric Chloride / toxicity*
  • Mercury Poisoning / metabolism
  • Mercury Poisoning / pathology
  • Mercury Poisoning / prevention & control*
  • Metallothionein / genetics
  • Metallothionein / metabolism
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects
  • Oxidoreductases / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Antioxidants
  • Disinfectants
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Malondialdehyde
  • Mercuric Chloride
  • Metallothionein
  • Oxidoreductases
  • Glutathione
  • Curcumin