Curcumin induces brown fat-like phenotype in 3T3-L1 and primary white adipocytes

J Nutr Biochem. 2016 Jan:27:193-202. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2015.09.006. Epub 2015 Sep 21.


Recent advances have been made in the understanding of pharmacological and dietary agents that contribute to browning of white adipose tissue in order to combat obesity by promoting energy expenditure. Here, we show that curcumin induces browning of 3T3-L1 and primary white adipocytes via enhanced expression of brown fat-specific genes. Curcumin-induced browning in white adipocytes was investigated by determining expression levels of brown adipocyte-specific genes/proteins by real-time reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction, immunoblot analysis and immunocytochemical staining. Curcumin increased mitochondrial biogenesis, as evidenced by transmission electronic microscopic detection and enhanced expression of proteins involved in fat oxidation. Cucurmin also increased protein levels of hormone-sensitive lipase and p-acyl-CoA carboxylase, suggesting its possible role in augmentation of lipolysis and suppression of lipogenesis. Increased expression of UCP1 and other brown adipocyte-specific markers was possibly mediated by curcumin-induced activation of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) based on the fact that inhibition of AMPK by dorsomorphin abolished expression of PRDM16, UCP1 and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma co-activator 1-alpha while the activator 5-Aminoimidazole-4-carboxamide ribonucleotide elevated expression of these brown marker proteins. Our findings suggest that curcumin plays a dual modulatory role in inhibition of adipogenesis as well as induction of the brown fat-like phenotype and thus may have potential therapeutic implications for treatment of obesity.

Keywords: Adipocyte browning; Anti-obesity; Curcumin; Non-shivering thermogenesis; UCP1.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 3T3-L1 Cells
  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / drug effects*
  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / metabolism
  • Adipose Tissue, White / drug effects*
  • Adipose Tissue, White / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Curcumin / pharmacology*
  • Mice
  • Rats


  • Curcumin