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Effects of curcumin on ethanol-induced hepatocyte necrosis and apoptosis: implication of lipid peroxidation and cytochrome c

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Ethanol-induced hepatocyte necrosis and apoptosis are valid in vitro models to investigate the modulatory effects of hepatoprotective/toxic agents such as curcumin. In this study, suspension and monolayer cultures of isolated rat hepatocytes were used. Levels of trypan blue uptake, reduced glutathione, and lipid peroxidation were quantified. Chromatin condensation, caspase-3 activity, and cytochrome c extramitochondrial translocation were also evaluated. Results revealed that curcumin did not protect against either ethanol-induced necrosis or glutathione depletion. Neither did curcumin reduce caspase-3 activation nor chromatin condensation. In contrast, curcumin induced glutathione depletion, caspase-3 activation, necrosis, and apoptosis. Fortunately, all tested curcumin concentrations (1 μM–10 mM) diminished the ethanol-induced lipid peroxidation. In addition, 1 μM curcumin decreased cytochrome c translocation in hepatocyte monolayers. In conclusion, low concentrations of curcumin may protect hepatocytes by reducing lipid peroxidation and cytochrome c release. Conversely, higher concentrations provoke glutathione depletion, caspase-3 activation, and hepatocytotoxicity.

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Acetyl-Asp-Glu-Val-Asp p-nitroanilide


analysis of variance


bovine serum albumin





Cyt c :

cytochrome c


dimethyl sulfoxide




ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid




reduced glutathione


Hoechst 33258


4-(2-hydroxyethyl)-1-piperazineethanesulfonic acid


horseradish peroxidase






lactate dehydrogenase


lipid peroxidation




oscillations per minute


phosphate-buffered saline


propidium iodide




reactive oxygen species


sodium dodecyl sulphate–polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis


trypan blue


thiobarbituric acid


TBA reactive substances


Williams’ medium E


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The author thanks Dr. Pierre Haddad’s research group (Université de Montréal, Canada) for technical support. Special thanks are due to Dr. Aya Asaad (University of Alexandria, Egypt) and Dr. Ebtehal El-Demerdash (Ain Shams University, Egypt) for valuable comments. This study was supported by the Faculty of Pharmacy, Ain Shams University, Cairo, Egypt.

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Correspondence to Asser I. Ghoneim.

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A part of this work was presented in abstract form at the 1st Scientific Conference of Faculty of Pharmacy, Cairo University, 29 March 2008.

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Ghoneim, A.I. Effects of curcumin on ethanol-induced hepatocyte necrosis and apoptosis: implication of lipid peroxidation and cytochrome c . Naunyn-Schmied Arch Pharmacol 379, 47–60 (2009).

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