Curcumin affects HSP60 folding activity and levels in neuroblastoma cells

Celeste Caruso Bavisotto, Antonella Marino Gammazza, Filippa Lo Cascio, Emanuele Mocciaro, Alessandra Maria Vitale, Giuseppe Vergilio, Andrea Pace, Francesco Cappello, Claudia Campanella, Antonio Palumbo Piccionello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


The fundamental challenge in fighting cancer is the development of protective agents able to interfere with the classical pathways of malignant transformation, such as extracellular matrix remodeling, epithelial–mesenchymal transition and, alteration of protein homeostasis. In the tumors of the brain, proteotoxic stress represents one of the main triggering agents for cell transformation. Curcumin is a natural compound with anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties with promising potential for the development of therapeutic drugs for the treatment of cancer as well as neurodegenerative diseases. Among the mediators of cancer development, HSP60 is a key factor for the maintenance of protein homeostasis and cell survival. High HSP60 levels were correlated, in particular, with cancer development and progression, and for this reason, we investigated the ability of curcumin to affect HSP60 expression, localization, and post-translational modifications using a neuroblastoma cell line. We have also looked at the ability of curcumin to interfere with the HSP60/HSP10 folding machinery. The cells were treated with 6, 12.5, and 25 µM of curcumin for 24 h, and the flow cytometry analysis showed that the compound induced apoptosis in a dose-dependent manner with a higher percentage of apoptotic cells at 25 µM. This dose of curcumin-induced a decrease in HSP60 protein levels and an upregulation of HSP60 mRNA expression. Moreover, 25 µM of curcumin reduced HSP60 ubiquitination and nitration, and the chaperonin levels were higher in the culture media compared with the untreated cells. Furthermore, curcumin at the same dose was able to favor HSP60 folding activity. The reduction of HSP60 levels, together with the increase in its folding activity and the secretion in the media led to the supposition that curcumin might interfere with cancer progression with a protective mechanism involving the chaperonin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number661
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 2 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Brain tumors
  • Extracellular HSP60
  • HSP60
  • Heat shock proteins
  • Molecular chaperones
  • Post-translational modifications
  • Protein folding

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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