Protective effects of a natural product, curcumin, against amyloid β induced mitochondrial and synaptic toxicities in Alzheimer's disease

J Investig Med. 2016 Dec;64(8):1220-1234. doi: 10.1136/jim-2016-000240. Epub 2016 Aug 12.


The purpose of our study was to investigate the protective effects of a natural product-'curcumin'- in Alzheimer's disease (AD)-like neurons. Although much research has been done in AD, very little has been reported on the effects of curcumin on mitochondrial biogenesis, dynamics, function and synaptic activities. Therefore, the present study investigated the protective effects against amyloid β (Aβ) induced mitochondrial and synaptic toxicities. Using human neuroblastoma (SHSY5Y) cells, curcumin and Aβ, we studied the protective effects of curcumin against Aβ. Further, we also studied preventive (curcumin+Aβ) and intervention (Aβ+curcumin) effects of curcumin against Aβ in SHSY5Y cells. Using real time RT-PCR, immunoblotting and immunofluorescence analysis, we measured mRNA and protein levels of mitochondrial dynamics, mitochondrial biogenesis and synaptic genes. We also assessed mitochondrial function by measuring hydrogen peroxide, lipid peroxidation, cytochrome oxidase activity and mitochondrial ATP. Cell viability was studied using the MTT assay. Aβ was found to impair mitochondrial dynamics, reduce mitochondrial biogenesis and decrease synaptic activity and mitochondrial function. In contrast, curcumin enhanced mitochondrial fusion activity and reduced fission machinery, and increased biogenesis and synaptic proteins. Mitochondrial function and cell viability were elevated in curcumin treated cells. Interestingly, curcumin pre- and post-treated cells incubated with Aβ showed reduced mitochondrial dysfunction, and maintained cell viability and mitochondrial dynamics, mitochondrial biogenesis and synaptic activity. Further, the protective effects of curcumin were stronger in pretreated SHSY5Y cells than in post-treated cells, indicating that curcumin works better in prevention than treatment in AD-like neurons. Our findings suggest that curcumin is a promising drug molecule to treat AD patients.

Keywords: Aging; Alzheimer Disease; Antioxidants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / drug therapy*
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / toxicity*
  • Biological Products / pharmacology
  • Biological Products / therapeutic use*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Curcumin / pharmacology
  • Curcumin / therapeutic use*
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / drug effects
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Mitochondria / pathology*
  • Mitochondrial Dynamics / drug effects
  • Mitochondrial Dynamics / genetics
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacology
  • Neuroprotective Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Organelle Biogenesis
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Synapses / drug effects
  • Synapses / genetics
  • Synapses / metabolism
  • Synapses / pathology*


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Biological Products
  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Curcumin