Curcumin potentiates doxorubicin-induced apoptosis in H9c2 cardiac muscle cells through generation of reactive oxygen species

Food Chem Toxicol. 2011 May;49(5):1102-9. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2011.01.021. Epub 2011 Feb 2.


Doxorubicin (DOX) is a widely used chemotherapy agent. The major adverse effect of DOX treatment in cancer patients is the onset of cardiomyopathy and heart failure. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are proposed to be responsible for DOX cardiotoxicity. Curcumin, a natural compound extracted from Curcuma Longa L., is known for its anti-oxidant properties. It has been identified as increased apoptosis in several cancer cell lines in combination with doxorubicin, but there are few studies about the effect of curcumin and doxorubicin on normal cardiac cells. Therefore, we evaluated the effects of curcumin on apoptosis induced by DOX in cardiac muscle cells. Pretreatment with curcumin significantly increased DOX-induced apoptosis of cardiac muscle cells through down regulation of Bcl-2, up-regulation of caspase-8 and caspase-9. The Bax/Bcl-2 ratio increased significantly after 1h pretreatment with curcumin. As well, curcumin increases ROS generation by DOX. In response to DOX, NF-κB was activated. However, curcumin was able to inhibit NF-κB activation. In conclusion, our results indicated that pretreatment with nontoxic concentrations of curcumin sensitized H9c2 cells to DOX-mediated apoptosis by generation of ROS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis*
  • Caspase 8 / metabolism
  • Caspase 9 / metabolism
  • Cell Survival
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Curcumin / pharmacology*
  • Down-Regulation / drug effects
  • Doxorubicin / toxicity*
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / cytology*
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / metabolism
  • NF-kappa B / antagonists & inhibitors
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*
  • Up-Regulation / drug effects
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein / metabolism


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Bax protein, rat
  • NF-kappa B
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein
  • Doxorubicin
  • Casp8 protein, rat
  • Casp9 protein, rat
  • Caspase 8
  • Caspase 9
  • Curcumin