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Keywords:

  • cardiovascular disease;
  • atherosclerosis;
  • inflammation;
  • diabetes;
  • hypolipidemia;
  • hyperlipidemia;
  • signal transduction;
  • gene expression;
  • FOXO1;
  • FOXO3a;
  • NRF2;
  • SREBP1/2;
  • CREB;
  • CREBH;
  • PPARγ;
  • LXR;
  • lipotoxicity

Abstract

Recent evidence suggests potential benefits from phytochemicals and micronutrients in reducing the elevated oxidative and lipid-mediated stress associated with inflammation, obesity, and atherosclerosis. These compounds may either directly scavenge reactive oxygen or nitrogen species or they may modulate the activity of signal transduction enzymes leading to changes in the expression of antioxidant genes. Alternatively, they may reduce plasma lipid levels by modulating lipid metabolic genes in tissues and thus reduce indirectly lipid-mediated oxidative and endoplasmic reticulum stress through their hypolipidemic effect. Here we review the proposed molecular mechanisms by which curcumin, a polyphenol present in the rhizomes of turmeric (Curcuma longa) spice, influences oxidative and lipid-mediated stress in the vascular system. At the molecular level, mounting experimental evidence suggests that curcumin may act chemically as scavenger of free radicals and/or influences signal transduction (e.g., Akt, AMPK) and modulates the activity of specific transcription factors (e.g., FOXO1/3a, NRF2, SREBP1/2, CREB, CREBH, PPARγ, and LXRα) that regulate the expression of genes involved in free radicals scavenging (e.g., catalase, MnSOD, and heme oxygenase-1) and lipid homeostasis (e.g., aP2/FABP4, CD36, HMG-CoA reductase, and carnitine palmitoyltransferase-I (CPT-1)). At the cellular level, curcumin may induce a mild oxidative and lipid-metabolic stress leading to an adaptive cellular stress response by hormetic stimulation of these cellular antioxidant defense systems and lipid metabolic enzymes. The resulting lower oxidative and lipid-mediated stress may not only explain the beneficial effects of curcumin on inflammation, cardiovascular, and neurodegenerative disease, but may also contribute to the increase in maximum life-span observed in animal models. © 2013 BioFactors, 39(1):101–121, 2013