Curcumin induces apoptosis in HCT-116 human colon cancer cells in a p21-independent manner.

Research paper by Jane L JL Watson, Richard R Hill, Patrick W PW Lee, Carman A CA Giacomantonio, David W DW Hoskin

Indexed on: 22 Apr '08Published on: 22 Apr '08Published in: Experimental and Molecular Pathology


Several micronutrients present in fruits and vegetables exhibit anticancer activity as a result of their actions on molecular targets involved in carcinogenesis and tumor progression. Curcumin, a phenolic phytochemical derived from the rhizome of Curcuma longa, exhibits both cancer-preventative activity and growth inhibitory effects on neoplastic cells. Several studies report that curcumin inhibits cancer cell proliferation and induces apoptosis in cancer cells through p21-mediated cell cycle arrest. Cancer cells that are deficient in p21 are also reported to be more prone to undergo apoptosis in response to a variety of cytotoxic agents. In this study, we determined whether curcumin-induced cytotoxicity in cultures of HCT-116 human colon cancer cells was dependent on p21 status. Curcumin killed wild-type HCT-116 cells in a dose- and time-dependent manner, as measured in an MTT cell viability assay. Moreover, an equivalent cytotoxic effect by curcumin was observed in both p21(+/+) and p21(-/-)HCT-116 cells, indicating that curcumin-induced cytotoxicity was p21-independent. Primary cultures of human dermal fibroblasts were less sensitive than HCT-116 colon cancer cells to lower doses of curcumin, suggesting a degree of selectivity for neoplastic cells. Western blot analysis showed that cell death in curcumin-treated cultures of p21(+/+) and p21(-/-) HCT-116 cells was associated with a reduction in pro-caspase-3 and PARP-1 cleavage, which are indicative of apoptosis. We conclude that curcumin-induced apoptosis in HCT-116 colon cancer cells does not depend on p21 status.