Background: Previous studies in various rodent epilepsy models have suggested that mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) inhibition with rapamycin has anti-epileptogenic potential. Since treatment with rapamycin produces unwanted side effects, there is growing interest to study alternatives to rapamycin as anti-epileptogenic drugs. Therefore, we investigated curcumin, the main component of the natural spice turmeric. Curcumin is known to have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects and has been reported to inhibit the mTOR pathway. These properties make it a potential anti-epileptogenic compound and an alternative for rapamycin.
Methods: To study the anti-epileptogenic potential of curcumin compared to rapamycin, we first studied the effects of both compounds on mTOR activation, inflammation, and oxidative stress in vitro, using cell cultures of human fetal astrocytes and the neuronal cell line SH-SY5Y. Next, we investigated the effects of rapamycin and intracerebrally applied curcumin on status epilepticus (SE)-induced inflammation and oxidative stress in hippocampal tissue, during early stages of epileptogenesis in the post-electrical SE rat model for temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE).
Results: Rapamycin, but not curcumin, suppressed mTOR activation in cultured astrocytes. Instead, curcumin suppressed the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway. Quantitative real-time PCR analysis revealed that curcumin, but not rapamycin, reduced the levels of inflammatory markers IL-6 and COX-2 in cultured astrocytes that were challenged with IL-1β. In SH-SY5Y cells, curcumin reduced reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels, suggesting anti-oxidant effects. In the post-SE rat model, however, treatment with rapamycin or curcumin did not suppress the expression of inflammatory and oxidative stress markers 1 week after SE.
Conclusions: These results indicate anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties of curcumin, but not rapamycin, in vitro. Intracerebrally applied curcumin modified the MAPK pathway in vivo at 1 week after SE but failed to produce anti-inflammatory or anti-oxidant effects. Future studies should be directed to increasing the bioavailability of curcumin (or related compounds) in the brain to assess its anti-epileptogenic potential in vivo.
Keywords: Curcumin; Inflammation; MAPK; Oxidative stress; Rapamycin; Temporal lobe epilepsy; mTOR.