Pharmacokinetics, Pharmacodynamics, and PKPD Modeling of Curcumin in Regulating Antioxidant and Epigenetic Gene Expression in Healthy Human Volunteers

Publication: Mol Pharm
Software: ADMET Predictor®


Curcumin is a major component of the spice turmeric (Curcuma longa), often used in food or as a dietary supplement. Many preclinical studies on curcumin suggest health benefits in many diseases due to its antioxidant/anti-inflammatory and epigenetic effects. The few human studies and curcumin’s unfavorable pharmacokinetics (PK) have limited its potential, leading researchers to study and develop formulations to improve its PK. The purpose of this clinical study is to describe the acute pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics (PK/PD) of commercially marketed curcumin in normal, healthy human volunteers. Twelve volunteers received a 4 g dose of curcumin capsules with a standard breakfast. Plasma samples were collected at specified time points and analyzed for curcumin and its glucuronide levels. RNA was extracted from leukocytes and analyzed for expression of select antioxidant and epigenetic histone deacetylase (HDAC) genes. Plasma levels of parent curcumin were below the detection limit by HPLC-ITMS/MS/MS. However, curcumin-O-glucuronide (COG), a major metabolite of curcumin, was detected as soon as 30 min. These observations of little to no curcumin and some levels of metabolite are in line with previous studies. PD marker antioxidant genes NRF2, HO-1, and NQO1 and epigenetic genes HDAC1, HDAC2, HDAC3, and HDAC4 were quantified by qPCR. COG PK is well-described by a one-compartment model, and the PK/PD of COG and its effect on antioxidant and epigenetic gene expression are captured by an indirect response model (IDR). A structural population PK model was sequentially established using a nonlinear mixed-effect model program (Monolix Lixoft, Orsay, France). Physiologically based pharmacokinetic modeling (PBPK) and simulation using Simcyp correlated well with the observed data. Taken together, these results show that the bioavailability of the parent curcumin compound is low, and oral administration of curcumin can still deliver detectable levels of curcumin glucuronide metabolite. But most importantly, it elicits antioxidant and epigenetic effects which could contribute to the overall health beneficial effects of curcumin.