Curcumin synergizes with resveratrol to stimulate the MAPK signaling pathway in human articular chondrocytes in vitro

Genes Nutr. 2011 May;6(2):171-9. doi: 10.1007/s12263-010-0179-5. Epub 2010 May 25.


The mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway is stimulated in differentiated chondrocytes and is an important signaling cascade for chondrocyte differentiation and survival. Pro-inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin 1β (IL-1β) play important roles in the pathogenesis of osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). In this study, we investigated whether curcumin and resveratrol can synergistically inhibit the catabolic effects of IL-1β, specifically the inhibition of the MAPK and subsequent apoptosis in human articular chondrocytes. Chondrocytes were either left untreated or treated with 10 ng/ml IL-1β or 1 μM U0126, a specific inhibitor of MAPK pathway alone for the indicated time periods or pre-treated with 10 μM curcumin, 10 μM resveratrol or 10 μM resveratrol and 10 μM curcumin for 4 h followed by co-treatment with 10 ng/ml IL-1β or 1 μM U0126 and 10 μM resveratrol, 10 μM curcumin or 10 μM resveratrol and 10 μM curcumin for the indicated time periods. Cultures were evaluated by immunoblotting and transmission electron microscopy. Incubation of chondrocytes with IL-1β resulted in induction of apoptosis, downregulation of β1-integrins and the extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 (Erk1/2). Interestingly, U0126 induced apoptosis and blocked the above-mentioned proteins in a similar way to IL-1β. Furthermore, curcumin and resveratrol inhibited IL-1β- or U0126-induced apoptosis and downregulation of β1-integrins and Erk1/2 in human articular chondrocytes. These results suggest that combining these two natural compounds activates MEK/Erk signaling, a pathway that is involved in the maintenance of chondrocyte differentiation and survival.