Mitochondria as a target in the therapeutic properties of curcumin

Arch Pharm (Weinheim). 2014 Dec;347(12):873-84. doi: 10.1002/ardp.201400266. Epub 2014 Sep 22.


Curcumin, a phenolic compound extracted from Curcuma longa, is commonly used in Asia as a spice and pigment and has several biological functions, particularly antioxidant properties. It has been reported that curcumin exhibits bifunctional antioxidant properties related to its capability to react directly with reactive oxygen species (ROS) and also to its ability to induce the expression of cytoprotective and antioxidant proteins through the transcription factor nuclear factor-erythroid-2-related factor 2 (Nrf2). Recently, it has been postulated that the mitochondrial function and metabolism are associated with Nrf2 and that curcumin has shown activities against mitochondrial dysfunction. The damage in mitochondria has been implicated in the pathogenesis of diseases like diabetes, cancer, aging, and neurodegenerative disorders. This review focuses on some of the most recent findings of curcumin properties that suggest a close relationship of this antioxidant with the mitochondrial function.

Keywords: Anticancer agent; Antioxidant enzymes; Apoptosis; Mitochondria; Nrf2.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / isolation & purification
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / therapeutic use*
  • Antioxidants / isolation & purification
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Curcuma* / chemistry
  • Curcumin / isolation & purification
  • Curcumin / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / drug effects*
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Mitochondria / pathology
  • NF-E2-Related Factor 2 / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects*
  • Phytotherapy
  • Plant Extracts / isolation & purification
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use*
  • Plants, Medicinal
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Antioxidants
  • NF-E2-Related Factor 2
  • Plant Extracts
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Curcumin