Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Medical Doctor (MD)

First Advisor

Dr. Michael Kashgarian

Second Advisor

Dr. Michael Riordan


The purpose of this study was to establish whether curcumin protects renal proximal tubule cells against ischemic injury, determine whether this postulated cytoprotective effect is mediated through the upregulation of HSP70, and investigate whether the mechanism by which curcumin induces HSP70 expression and confers its protective effect is through activation of the Unfolded Protein Response. LLC-PK1 cells were cultured on collagen-coated filters to mimic conditions of in vivo renal proximal tubule cells and induce cell polarization. Injury with and without curcumin treatment was studied by using chemically-induced ATP-depletion which mimics renal ischemic injury. Cell injury was assessed using a TUNEL assay in order to evaluate DNA cleavage associated with ischemia-induced apoptosis and actin staining used to assess cytoskeletal disruption. Renal ischemic damage was further investigated by determining detachment of the Na-K ATPase from the basolateral membrane, which represents loss of cell polarity. Cells were incubated with curcumin in a dose- and time-response fashion and subsequent levels of HSP70 expression were assessed. Cells were then incubated with AEBSF, an inhibitor of the Unfolded Protein Response (UPR) and HSP70 and BiP/GRP78 (an ER resident chaperone that is upregulated by the UPR) expression levels were evaluated. Results demonstrated that treatment with curcumin during two hours of injury results in significantly less injury-related apoptosis and cytoskeletal disruption compared to control injured cells. It was demonstrated that curcumin induces HSP70 in both a dose- and time-response fashion. Moreover, curcumin treatment resulted in profound stabilization of Na-K ATPase on the basolateral membranes as there was significantly less Na-K ATPase detachment in cells treated with curcumin during two hours of injury compared to control injured cells. Finally, treatment with AEBSF inhibited HSP70 upregulation in curcumin-treated cells as well as inhibiting the GRP78 over-expression otherwise demonstrated in curcumin-treated cells. Protection of proximal tubule cells against renal ischemic injury by curcumin was therefore indicated to be mediated by the activation of the UPR through which HSP70 is upregulated. Curcumins activation of the UPR and induction of HSP70 explains the stabilization of Na-K ATPase on the cytoskeleton and also provides a potential mechanism explaining many of curcumins therapeutic and protective qualities.


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