Background: Microglial cells are important effectors of the neuronal innate immune system with a major role in chronic neurodegenerative diseases. Curcumin, a major component of tumeric, alleviates pro-inflammatory activities of these cells by inhibiting nuclear factor kappa B (NFkB) signaling. To study the immuno-modulatory effects of curcumin on a transcriptomic level, DNA-microarray analyses were performed with resting and LPS-challenged microglial cells after short-term treatment with curcumin.
Methods: Resting and LPS-activated BV-2 cells were stimulated with curcumin and genome-wide mRNA expression patterns were determined using DNA-microarrays. Selected qRT-PCR analyses were performed to confirm newly identified curcumin-regulated genes. The migration potential of microglial cells was determined with wound healing assays and transwell migration assays. Microglial neurotoxicity was estimated by morphological analyses and quantification of caspase 3/7 levels in 661W photoreceptors cultured in the presence of microglia-conditioned medium.
Results: Curcumin treatment markedly changed the microglial transcriptome with 49 differentially expressed transcripts in a combined analysis of resting and activated microglial cells. Curcumin effectively triggered anti-inflammatory signals as shown by induced expression of Interleukin 4 and Peroxisome proliferator activated receptor α. Several novel curcumin-induced genes including Netrin G1, Delta-like 1, Platelet endothelial cell adhesion molecule 1, and Plasma cell endoplasmic reticulum protein 1, have been previously associated with adhesion and cell migration. Consequently, curcumin treatment significantly inhibited basal and activation-induced migration of BV-2 microglia. Curcumin also potently blocked gene expression related to pro-inflammatory activation of resting cells including Toll-like receptor 2 and Prostaglandin-endoperoxide synthase 2. Moreover, transcription of NO synthase 2 and Signal transducer and activator of transcription 1 was reduced in LPS-triggered microglia. These transcriptional changes in curcumin-treated LPS-primed microglia also lead to decreased neurotoxicity with reduced apoptosis of 661W photoreceptor cultures.
Conclusions: Collectively, our results suggest that curcumin is a potent modulator of the microglial transcriptome. Curcumin attenuates microglial migration and triggers a phenotype with anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties. Thus, curcumin could be a nutraceutical compound to develop immuno-modulatory and neuroprotective therapies for the treatment of various neurodegenerative disorders.