Monica T. Midura-Kiela, Vijayababu M. Radhakrishnan, Claire B. Larmonier, Daniel Laubitz, Fayez K. Ghishan, and Pawel R. Kiela

Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2012 Jan 1;302(1):G85-96.

PMID: 22038826


Curcumin (diferulolylmethane) is an anti-inflammatory phenolic compound found effective in preclinical models of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) and in ulcerative colitis patients. Pharmacokinetics of curcumin and its poor systemic bioavailability suggest that it targets preferentially intestinal epithelial cells. The intestinal epithelium, an essential component of the gut innate defense mechanisms, is profoundly affected by IFN-γ, which can disrupt the epithelial barrier function, prevent epithelial cell migration and wound healing, and prime epithelial cells to express major histocompatibility complex class II (MHC-II) molecules and to serve as nonprofessional antigen-presenting cells. In this report we demonstrate that curcumin inhibits IFN-γ signaling in human and mouse colonocytes. Curcumin inhibited IFN-γ-induced gene transcription, including CII-TA, MHC-II genes (HLA-DRα, HLA-DPα1, HLA-DRβ1), and T cell chemokines (CXCL9, 10, and 11). Acutely, curcumin inhibited Stat1 binding to the GAS cis-element, prevented Stat1 nuclear translocation, and reduced Jak1 phosphorylation and phosphorylation of Stat1 at Tyr(701). Longer exposure to curcumin led to endocytic internalization of IFNγRα followed by lysosomal fusion and degradation. In summary, curcumin acts as an IFN-γ signaling inhibitor in colonocytes with biphasic mechanisms of action, a phenomenon that may partially account for the beneficial effects of curcumin in experimental colitis and in human IBD.