Curcumin induces apoptosis in immortalized NIH 3T3 and malignant cancer cell lines

Nutr Cancer. 1996;26(1):111-20. doi: 10.1080/01635589609514468.


Curcumin, which is a widely used dietary pigment and spice, has been demonstrated to be an effective inhibitor of tumor promotion in mouse skin carcinogenesis. We report that curcumin induces cell shrinkage, chromatin condensation, and DNA fragmentation, characteristics of apoptosis, in immortalized mouse embryo fibroblast NIH 3T3 erb B2 oncogene-transformed NIH 3T3, mouse sarcoma S180, human colon cancer cell HT-29, human kidney cancer cell 293, and human hepatocellular carcinoma Hep G2 cells, but not in primary culture of mouse embryonic fibroblast C3H 10T1/2, rat embryonic fibroblast, and human foreskin fibroblast cells in a concentration- and time-dependent manner. Many cellular and biochemical effects of curcumin in mouse fibroblast cells have been reported, such as inhibition of protein kinase C (PKC) activity induced by phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate treatment, inhibition of tyrosine protein kinase activity, and inhibition of arachidonic acid (AA) metabolism. Treatment of NIH 3T3 cells with the PKC inhibitor staurosporine, the tyrosine kinase inhibitor herbimycin A, and the AA metabolism inhibitor quinacrine induces apoptotic cell death. These results suggest that, in some immortalized and transformed cells, blocking the cellular signal transduction might trigger the induction of apoptosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 3T3 Cells
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / pathology
  • Chromatin / drug effects
  • Chromatin / ultrastructure
  • Colonic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Curcumin / pharmacology*
  • DNA Fragmentation / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Kidney Neoplasms / pathology
  • Liver Neoplasms / pathology
  • Mice
  • Rats
  • Sarcoma, Experimental / pathology
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Chromatin
  • Curcumin