Curcuminoids Induce Reactive Oxygen Species and Autophagy to Enhance Apoptosis in Human Oral Cancer Cells

Am J Chin Med. 2018;46(5):1145-1168. doi: 10.1142/S0192415X1850060X. Epub 2018 Jul 5.


Numerous studies support the use of herbal medicine or natural products for chemotherapy in human cancers. Reports have associated curcumin (CUR), dimethoxy curcumin (DMC) and bisdemethoxycurcumin (BDMC) with numerous biological activities including anticancer activities, but no available information have shown that these induced apoptotic cell death and autophagy in human oral cancer cells. In the present study, we investigated the effect of CUR, DMC and BDMC on the cell viability, apoptotic cell death, reactive oxygen species (ROS), Ca[Formula: see text], mitochondria membrane potential (MMP) and caspase activities using flow cytometry assay and autophagy by monodansylcadaverine (MDC) and acridine orange (AO) staining in human oral cancer SAS cells. Results indicated that CUR, DMC and BDMC decreased total viable cell number through the induction of cell autophagy and apoptosis in SAS cells. Cells were pretreated with N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC), 3-methyladenine (3MA), rapamycin and carbobenzoxy-valyl-alanyl-aspartyl-[O-methyl]-fluoro-methylketone (Z-VAD-fmk) and then were treated with CUR, DMC and BDMC that led to increased total viable cell number when compared to CUR, DMC and BDMC treatments only. Results indicated induced apoptotic cell death through ROS, mitochondria-dependent pathway and induction of cell autophagy. Based on those observations, we suggest that CUR, DMC and BDMC could be used as a potential anticancer agent in human oral cancer.

Keywords: Apoptosis; Autophagy; Bisdemethoxycurcumin (BDMC); Curcumin (CUR); Demethoxycurcumin (DMC); Oral Cancer; Reactive Oxygen Species; SAS Cells.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / chemistry
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Autophagy / drug effects*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Curcumin / chemistry
  • Curcumin / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / drug effects
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Mouth Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Mouth Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Mouth Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Curcumin