Evaluation in vitro of synthetic curcumins as agents promoting monocytic gene expression related to β-amyloid clearance

S. Gagliardi, S. Ghirmai, K. J. Abel, M. Lanier, S. J. Gardai, C. Lee, J. R. Cashman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Accumulation of amyloid-beta (Aβ) is one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease (AD), and efficient clearance of Aβ by cells of the innate immune system may be an important mechanism for controlling or preventing disease onset. It was reported that peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) of most AD patients are defective in the phagocytosis of soluble Aβ. Natural curcumins were shown to restore Aβ phagocytosis by AD PBMCs and to up-regulate the expression of key genes including MGAT3 and those encoding Toll-like receptors (TLRs). Bisdemethoxycurcumin (BDC), a minor component of natural curcumin, was shown to have the greatest potency for stimulating AD PBMCs. Because natural curcumins have inherent limitations with regard to physicochemical properties, synthetic curcumin analogues were developed that showed improved solubility, stability, and bioavailability. An in vitro system using human monocytic cell lines (U-937, THP-1) was used to evaluate analogues for the potency of innate immune cell stimulation. These cell lines showed responses to curcuminoids and to 1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (VD3) resembling those seen in human PBMCs. From more than 45 curcuminoids analyzed, the most potent compounds possessing enhanced pharmaceutical properties were identified. The most promising candidates included prodrug versions containing water solubility-enhancing amino acids and stability-increasing modifications near the central diketone. In vivo studies showed compound (5) substantially increased bioavailability by combining several promising structural modifications. Studies examining ex vivo phagocytosis of Aβ and bead particles in mouse microglia showed that BDC and several water-soluble analogues were quite effective compared to curcumin or an unnatural analogue. In vitro studies using monocytic cell lines reported herein complement those using human PBMCs and represent a routinely accessible and uniform cellular resource allowing direct comparisons between compounds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-112
Number of pages12
JournalChemical Research in Toxicology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 13 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology


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