Curcumin protects liver inflammation by suppressing expression of inducible nitric oxide synthase in primary cultured rat hepatocytes


  • Richi Nakatake Kansai Medical University
  • Hidehiko Hishikawa
  • Hideyuki Matushima
  • Yusuke Nakamura
  • Morihiko Ishizaki
  • Kosuke Matsui
  • Masaki Kaibori
  • Mikio Nishizawa
  • Tadayoshi Okumura
  • Masanori Kon



Background: Curcumin has beneficial effects on organ metabolism. However, there is little evidence that curcumin affects inflammatory mediators, such as tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α and nitric oxide (NO). In an inflamed liver, proinflammatory cytokines stimulate liver cells, followed by the induction of inducible NO synthase (iNOS). Excessive NO produced by iNOS is one of the factors in liver injury. Therefore, inhibiting iNOS induction for preventing liver injury is important.

Objective: This study aimed to investigate liver protective effects of curcumin by examining interleukin (IL)-1β-stimulated hepatocytes.

Methods: Primary cultured rat hepatocytes were treated with IL-1β in the presence or absence of curcumin. Induction of NO production and iNOS, and the signaling pathway of iNOS were analyzed.

Results: Simultaneous addition of IL-1β and curcumin decreased expression levels of iNOS protein and mRNA, resulting in inhibition of NO production. Curcumin also reduced mRNA expression of TNF-α and IL-6. Curcumin inhibited two essential signaling pathways for iNOS induction, NF-κB activation and type I IL-1 receptor upregulation. Transfection experiments revealed that curcumin reduced iNOS mRNA levels at the promoter activation and mRNA stabilization steps. Delayed administration of curcumin after IL-1β addition also inhibited iNOS induction.

Conclusions: Curcumin affects induction of inflammatory mediators, such as iNOS and TNF-α, in part through the inhibition of NF-κB activation in hepatocytes. Curcumin may have therapeutic potential for organ injuries, including the liver.

Key words: curcumin, inducible nitric oxide synthase, liver injury, primary cultured hepatocytes, nuclear factor-κB, type I interleukin-1 receptor, tumor necrosis factor-α. 

Author Biography

  • Richi Nakatake, Kansai Medical University
    Department of Surgery





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