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Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 412576, 11 pages
Research Article

Curcumin Protects Human Keratinocytes against Inorganic Arsenite-Induced Acute Cytotoxicity through an NRF2-Dependent Mechanism

1Department of Forensic Pathology, School of Forensic Medicine, China Medical University, Shenyang , Liaoning 110001, China
2Institute for Chemical Safety Sciences, The Hamner Institutes for Health Sciences, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709-2137, USA
3Department of Histology and Embryology, School of Basic Medicine, China Medical University, Shenyang, Liaoning 110001, China
4Department of Infectious Diseases, The First Affiliated Hospital, China Medical University, Shenyang, Liaoning 110001, China

Received 5 February 2013; Accepted 18 March 2013

Academic Editor: Hye-Youn Cho

Copyright © 2013 Rui Zhao et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Human exposure to inorganic arsenic leads to various dermal disorders, including hyperkeratosis and skin cancer. Curcumin is demonstrated to induce remarkable antioxidant activity in a variety of cells and tissues. The present study aimed at identifying curcumin as a potent activator of nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (NRF2) and demonstrating its protective effect against inorganic arsenite- (iAs3+-) induced cytotoxicity in human keratinocytes. We found that curcumin led to nuclear accumulation of NRF2 protein and increased the expression of antioxidant response element- (ARE-) regulated genes in HaCaT keratinocytes in concentration- and time-dependent manners. High concentration of curcumin (20 μM) also increased protein expression of long isoforms of NRF1. Treatment with low concentrations of curcumin (2.5 or 5 μM) effectively increased the viability and survival of HaCaT cells against iAs3+-induced cytotoxicity as assessed by the MTT assay and flow cytometry and also attenuated iAs3+-induced expression of cleaved caspase-3 and cleaved PARP protein. Selective knockdown of NRF2 or KEAP1 by lentiviral shRNAs significantly diminished the cytoprotection conferred by curcumin, suggesting that the protection against iAs3+-induced cytotoxicity is dependent on the activation of NRF2. Our results provided a proof of the concept of using curcumin to activate the NRF2 pathway to alleviate arsenic-induced dermal damage.