Patients with metabolic syndrome are at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. The principal risk factor for development of metabolic syndrome is obesity, defined as a state of pathological hyperplasia or/and hypertrophy of adipose tissue. The number of mature adipocytes is determined by adipocyte differentiation from preadipocytes. The purpose of the present study is to investigate the effects of curcumin on adipogenesis and the underlying mechanism. To examine cell toxicity of curcumin, 3T3-L1 preadipocytes were treated with 0–50 µM curcumin for 24, 48, or 72 h, then cell viability was measured using the MTT (3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide) assay. The effect of curcumin on the cell cycle was determined by flow cytometry. Curcumin-induced cell apoptosis was determined by the TUNEL assay and curcumin-induced caspase activation was measured by immunoblotting. The effect of curcumin on adipocyte differentiation was determined by measuring mitotic clonal expansion (MCE), expression of adipogenic transcription factors, and lipid accumulation. Results showed the viability of preadipocytes was significantly decreased by treatment with 30 µM curcumin, a concentration that caused apoptosis in preadipocytes, as assessed by the TUNEL assay, and caused activation of caspases 8, 9, and 3. A non-cytotoxic dose of curcumin (15 µM) inhibited MCE, downregulated the expression of PPARγ and C/EBPα, prevented differentiation medium-induced β-catenin downregulation, and decreased the lipid accumulation in 3T3-L1 adipocytes. In conclusion, our data show that curcumin can induce preadipocyte apoptosis and inhibit adipocyte differentiation, leading to suppression of adipogenesis.
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