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      The Effect of Curcumin on Intracellular pH (pHi), Membrane Hyperpolarization and Sperm Motility

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          Curcumin has shown to affect sperm motility and function in vitro and fertility in vivo. The molecular mechanism(s) by which curcumin affects sperm motility has not been delineated. Since modulation of intracellular pH (pHi) and plasma membrane polarization is involved in sperm motility, the present study was conducted to investigate the effect of curcumin on these sperm (human and murine) parameters.


          The effect of curcumin on sperm forward motility was examined by counting percentages of forward moving sperm. The effect of curcumin on intracellular pH (pHi) was measured by the fluorescent pH indicator 2,7-bicarboxyethyl-5,6-carboxyfluorescein-acetoxymethyl ester (BCECF-AM). The effect of curcumin on plasma membrane polarization was examined using the fluorescence sensitive dye bis (1,3-dibarbituric acid)-trimethine oxanol [DiBAC 4(3)].


          Curcumin caused a concentration-dependent (p<0.05) decrease in forward motility of both human and mouse sperm. It also caused a concentration-dependent decrease in intracellular pH (pHi) in both human and mouse sperm. Curcumin induced significant (p<0.05) hyperpolarization of the plasma membrane in both human and mouse sperm.


          These findings indicate that curcumin inhibits sperm forward motility by intracellular acidification and hyperpolarization of sperm plasma membrane. This is the first study to our knowledge which examined the effect of curcumin on sperm pHi and membrane polarization that affect sperm forward motility. These exciting findings will have application in deciphering the signal transduction pathway involved in sperm motility and function and in development of a novel non-steroidal contraceptive for infertility.

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          Curcumin: the Indian solid gold.

          Turmeric, derived from the plant Curcuma longa, is a gold-colored spice commonly used in the Indian subcontinent, not only for health care but also for the preservation of food and as a yellow dye for textiles. Curcumin, which gives the yellow color to turmeric, was first isolated almost two centuries ago, and its structure as diferuloylmethane was determined in 1910. Since the time of Ayurveda (1900 Bc) numerous therapeutic activities have been assigned to turmeric for a wide variety of diseases and conditions, including those of the skin, pulmonary, and gastrointestinal systems, aches, pains, wounds, sprains, and liver disorders. Extensive research within the last half century has proven that most of these activities, once associated with turmeric, are due to curcumin. Curcumin has been shown to exhibit antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and anticancer activities and thus has a potential against various malignant diseases, diabetes, allergies, arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, and other chronic illnesses. These effects are mediated through the regulation of various transcription factors, growth factors, inflammatory cytokines, protein kinases, and other enzymes. Curcumin exhibits activities similar to recently discovered tumor necrosis factor blockers (e.g., HUMIRA, REMICADE, and ENBREL), a vascular endothelial cell growth factor blocker (e.g., AVASTIN), human epidermal growth factor receptor blockers (e.g., ERBITUX, ERLOTINIB, and GEFTINIB), and a HER2 blocker (e.g., HERCEPTIN). Considering the recent scientific bandwagon that multitargeted therapy is better than monotargeted therapy for most diseases, curcumin can be considered an ideal "Spice for Life".
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            Curcumin: the story so far.

            Curcumin is a polyphenol derived from the herbal remedy and dietary spice turmeric. It possesses diverse anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties following oral or topical administration. Apart from curcumin's potent antioxidant capacity at neutral and acidic pH, its mechanisms of action include inhibition of several cell signalling pathways at multiple levels, effects on cellular enzymes such as cyclooxygenase and glutathione S-transferases, immuno-modulation and effects on angiogenesis and cell-cell adhesion. Curcumin's ability to affect gene transcription and to induce apoptosis in preclinical models is likely to be of particular relevance to cancer chemoprevention and chemotherapy in patients. Although curcumin's low systemic bioavailability following oral dosing may limit access of sufficient concentrations for pharmacological effect in certain tissues, the attainment of biologically active levels in the gastrointestinal tract has been demonstrated in animals and humans. Sufficient data currently exist to advocate phase II clinical evaluation of oral curcumin in patients with invasive malignancy or pre-invasive lesions of the gastrointestinal tract, particularly the colon and rectum.
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              Discovery of curcumin, a component of golden spice, and its miraculous biological activities.

              1. Curcumin is the active ingredient of the dietary spice turmeric and has been consumed for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. Modern science has shown that curcumin modulates various signalling molecules, including inflammatory molecules, transcription factors, enzymes, protein kinases, protein reductases, carrier proteins, cell survival proteins, drug resistance proteins, adhesion molecules, growth factors, receptors, cell cycle regulatory proteins, chemokines, DNA, RNA and metal ions. 2. Because of this polyphenol's potential to modulate multiple signalling molecules, it has been reported to possess pleiotropic activities. First demonstrated to have antibacterial activity in 1949, curcumin has since been shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, pro-apoptotic, chemopreventive, chemotherapeutic, antiproliferative, wound healing, antinociceptive, antiparasitic and antimalarial properties as well. Animal studies have suggested that curcumin may be active against a wide range of human diseases, including diabetes, obesity, neurological and psychiatric disorders and cancer, as well as chronic illnesses affecting the eyes, lungs, liver, kidneys and gastrointestinal and cardiovascular systems. 3. Although many clinical trials evaluating the safety and efficacy of curcumin against human ailments have already been completed, others are still ongoing. Moreover, curcumin is used as a supplement in several countries, including India, Japan, the US, Thailand, China, Korea, Turkey, South Africa, Nepal and Pakistan. Although inexpensive, apparently well tolerated and potentially active, curcumin has not been approved for the treatment of any human disease. 4. In the present article, we discuss the discovery and key biological activities of curcumin, with a particular emphasis on its activities at the molecular and cellular levels, as well as in animals and humans. © 2011 The Authors. Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology © 2011 Blackwell Publishing Asia Pty Ltd.

                Author and article information

                J Reprod Infertil
                J Reprod Infertil
                Journal of Reproduction & Infertility
                Avicenna Research Institute
                Apr-Jun 2014
                : 15
                : 2
                : 62-70
                Reproductive Immunology and Molecular Biology Laboratories, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, West Virginia University, School of Medicine, Morgantown, West Virginia, USA
                Author notes
                [* ] Corresponding Author: Rajesh K. Naz, Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center North, West Virginia University, School of Medicine, Room 2085, 1 Medical Center Drive, Morgantown, WV 26506, USA. E-mail: Rnaz@
                Copyright © 2014 Avicenna Research Institute

                This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License which allows users to read, copy, distribute and make derivative works for non-commercial purposes from the material, as long as the author of the original work is cited properly.

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