Curcumin and carnosic acid cooperate to inhibit proliferation and alter mitochondrial function of metastatic prostate cancer cells

Saniya Ossikbayeva, Marina Khanin, Yoav Sharoni, Aviram Trachtenberg, Sultan Tuleukhanov, Richard Sensenig, Slava Rom, Michael Danilenko, Zulfiya Orynbayeva

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Anticancer activities of plant polyphenols have been demonstrated in various models of neoplasia. However, evidence obtained in numerous in vitro studies indicates that proliferation arrest and/or killing of cancer cells require quite high micromolar concentrations of polyphenols that are difficult to reach in vivo and can also be (geno)toxic to at least some types of normal cells. The ability of certain polyphenols to synergize with one another at low concentrations can be used as a promising strategy to effectively treat human malignancies. We have recently reported that curcumin and carnosic acid applied at non-cytotoxic concentrations synergistically cooperate to induce massive apoptosis in acute myeloid leukemia cells, but not in normal hematopoietic and non-hematopoietic cells, via sustained cytosolic calcium overload. Here, we show that the two polyphenols can also synergistically suppress the growth of DU145 and PC-3 metastatic prostate cancer cell cultures. However, instead of cell killing, the combined treatment induced a marked inhibition of cell proliferation associated with G0/G1 cell cycle arrest. This was preceded by transient elevation of cytosolic calcium levels and prolonged dissipation of the mitochondrial membrane potential, without generating oxidative stress, and was associated with defective oxidative phosphorylation encompassing mitochondrial dysfunction. The above effects were concomitant with a significant downregulation of mRNA and protein expression of the oncogenic kinase SGK1, the mitochondria-hosted mTOR component. In addition, a moderate decrease in SGK1 phosphorylation at Ser422 was observed in polyphenol-treated cells. The mTOR inhibitor rapamycin produced a similar reduction in SGK1 mRNA and protein levels as well as phosphorylation. Collectively, our findings suggest that the combination of curcumin and carnosic acid at potentially bioavailable concentrations may effectively target different types of cancer cells by distinct modes of action. This and similar combinations merit further exploration as an anticancer modality.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1591
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2021


  • Carnosic acid
  • Cell cycle
  • Curcumin
  • OxPhos
  • Prostate cancer
  • SGK1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Physiology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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