Glioblastoma is the most aggressive common brain tumor in adults. Curcumin, from Curcuma longa, is an effective antitumor agent. Although the same proteins control both autophagy and cell death, the molecular connections between them are complicated and autophagy may promote or inhibit cell death. We investigated whether curcumin affects autophagy, which regulates curcumin-mediated tumor cell death in A172 human glioblastoma cells. When A172 cells were incubated with 10 μM curcumin, autophagy increased in a time-dependent manner. Curcumin-induced cell death was reduced by co-incubation with the autophagy inhibitors 3-methyladenine (3-MA), hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), and LY294002. Curcumin-induced cell death was also inhibited by co-incubation with rapamycin, an autophagy inducer. When cells were incubated under serum-deprived medium, LC3-II amount was increased but the basal level of cell viability was reduced, leading to the inhibition of curcumin-induced cell death. Cell death was decreased by inhibiting curcumin-induced autophagy using small interference RNA (siRNA) of Atg5 or Beclin1. Therefore, curcumin-mediated tumor cell death is promoted by curcumin-induced autophagy, but not by an increase in the basal level of autophagy in rapamycin-treated or serum-deprived conditions. This suggests that the antitumor effects of curcumin are influenced differently by curcumin-induced autophagy and the prerequisite basal level of autophagy in cancer cells.
Keywords: Antitumor activity; Autophagy; Curcumin; Glioblastoma.