Fuchs endothelial corneal dystrophy is one of the most common indications for corneal transplantation, and impaired anti-oxidative function is observed in corneal endothelial cells (CECs). Curcumin is well-known for its anti-oxidative property; but, no study has examined the effect of curcumin on anti-oxidative therapeutic roles in corneal endothelial disease. In our experiments, oxidative stress 0.25 mM tert-butyl hydroperoxide for 2 h was induced in immortalized human CECs pretreated with curcumin. Cell behavior and viability, reactive oxygen species production, and the protein expression of the kelch-like ECH-associated protein 1 (Keap1)/nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2(Nrf2)/antioxidant response element (ARE) pathway were examined; the Keap1/Nrf2/ARE pathway is crucial anti-oxidative pathway of curcumin. The results showed that pretreatment with 12.5 μM curcumin significantly reduced the ROS production and improved the survival of CECs under oxidative stress. In addition, curcumin pretreatment significantly increased the expression of nuclear Nrf2, and the productions of superoxide dismutase 1 and heme oxygenase-1, which were the target anti-oxidative enzymes of the Keap1/Nrf2/ARE pathway. Our findings showed that curcumin enhanced the growth and differentiation of CECs under oxidative stress. The activation of Keap1/Nrf2/ARE pathway by curcumin was crucial for CECs to improve their anti-oxidative capacity.
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