Curcumin Effect on Copper Transport in HepG2 Cells

Medicina (Kaunas). 2018 Apr 12;54(2):14. doi: 10.3390/medicina54020014.


Background and Objective: In Wilson's disease, copper metabolism is impaired due to defective copper transporting protein ATP7B, resulting in copper accumulation in liver and brain and causing damage to liver and brain tissues. Published data suggest that one of the possible treatments for Wilson's disease is curcumin-a compound found in the root of Curcuma longa. In this study, we tested whether curcumin affects copper transport and excretion in HepG2 hepatocytes carrying wildtype ATP7B. Materials and Methods: We examined the impact of 5 µM and 25 µM curcumin on the transport of copper in HepG2 cells incubated with 20 µM and 100 µM CuCl₂, as well as copper excretion from cells. First, immunofluorescent staining and co-localization analysis were carried out in HepG2 cells using confocal laser scanning microscope and Nikon NIS Elements software. Second, a concentration of copper extracted into cell culture medium was determined using atomic absorption spectrometry. Results: The analysis of the co-localization between Golgi complex and ATP7B revealed that both 5 µM and 25 µM doses of curcumin improve the ability of liver cells to transport copper to plasma membrane at 20 µM CuCl₂, but not at 100 µM CuCl₂ concentration. However, atomic absorption spectrometry showed that curcumin rather promotes copper absorption into liver cell line HepG2 than excretion of it. Conclusions: Curcumin accelerates the transport of copper within liver cells, but does not promote copper excretion from HepG2 cells.

Keywords: ATP7B; HepG2; Wilson’s disease; copper; curcumin.

MeSH terms

  • Copper / administration & dosage
  • Copper / analysis
  • Copper / metabolism*
  • Copper-Transporting ATPases / genetics
  • Copper-Transporting ATPases / metabolism*
  • Culture Media / chemistry
  • Curcumin / administration & dosage
  • Curcumin / pharmacology*
  • Golgi Apparatus / metabolism
  • Hep G2 Cells
  • Hepatocytes / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Confocal


  • Culture Media
  • Copper
  • ATP7B protein, human
  • Copper-Transporting ATPases
  • Curcumin
  • cupric chloride