Curcumin is a widely-used dietary supplement and a chemopreventive agent for various cancers. Pre-clinical chemopreventive studies rarely consider the effect of aging. We previously reported that unlike young animals, curcumin is ineffective in middle-aged rats for colon chemoprevention. This study investigated whether resistance to apoptosis during cancer initiation contributes to this age-dependent effect. Young, middle-aged, and old F344 rats were fed either curcumin (0.6%) or control diet. Colonic apoptosis was evaluated 0, 8, and 16 h after azoxymethane (AOM) injection. Colonic Hsp70 mRNA levels, caspase-9 activity, cell proliferation, and crypt morphology were measured. In AOM-treated rats, only middle-aged rats were resistant to curcumin-induced apoptosis whereas cell proliferation was reduced by curcumin in all ages. Curcumin-induced apoptosis was mediated by caspase-9 in young but not older rats. Transcriptional Hsp70 expression was induced in only young rats and was suppressed by curcumin. Therefore, the age-related difference in curcumin chemoprevention is due to a differential response in induction of apoptosis. The mitochondria-dependent pathway seems to mediate curcumin-induced apoptosis in young but not older animals. Hsp70 expression was not related with resistance to curcumin-induced apoptosis. Understanding age-related differences in the apoptotic response may lead to improved translation from pre-clinical animal studies to humans.
- Colon cancer