Curcumin mediates polyamine metabolism and sensitizes gastrointestinal cancer cells to antitumor polyamine-targeted therapies

Tracy Murray-Stewart, Matthew Dunworth, Yuan Lui, Francis M. Giardiello, Patrick M. Woster, Robert A. Casero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Curcumin, a natural polyphenol that contributes to the flavor and yellow pigment of the spice turmeric, is known for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticarcinogenic properties. Capable of affecting the initiation, promotion, and progression of carcinogenesis through multiple mechanisms, curcumin has potential utility for both chemoprevention and chemotherapy. Previous studies demonstrated that curcumin can inhibit ornithine decarboxylase (ODC) activity in human leukemia and breast cancer cells, and pretreatment with dietary curcumin blocks carcinogen-induced ODC activity in rodent models of skin, colon, and renal cancer. The current study investigated the regulation of polyamine metabolism in human gastric and colon carcinoma cell lines in response to curcumin. Curcumin treatment significantly induced spermine oxidase (SMOX) mRNA and activity, which results in the generation of hydrogen peroxide, a source of ROS. Simultaneously, curcumin down regulated spermidine/spermine N1-acetyltransferase (SSAT) activity and the biosynthetic enzymes ODC and S-adenosylmethionine decarboxylase (SAMDC), thereby diminishing intracellular polyamine pools. Combination treatments using curcumin with the ODC inhibitor 2-difluoro-methylornithine (DFMO), an agent currently in clinical chemoprevention trials, significantly enhanced inhibition of ODC activity and decreased growth of GI cancer cell lines beyond that observed with either agent alone. Similarly, combining curcumin with the polyamine analogue bis(ethyl)norspermine enhanced growth inhibition that was accompanied by enhanced accumulation of the analogue and decreased intracellular polyamine levels beyond those observed with either agent alone. Importantly, cotreatment with curcumin permitted the lowering of the effective dose of ODC inhibitor or polyamine analogue. These studies provide insight into the polyamine-related mechanisms involved in the cancer cell response to curcumin and its potential as a chemopreventive or chemotherapeutic agent in the GI tract.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0202677
JournalPloS one
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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