Protective effects of curcumin against mercury-induced hepatic injuries in rats, involvement of oxidative stress antagonism, and Nrf2-ARE pathway activation

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Mercury (Hg) represents a ubiquitous environmental heavy metal that could lead to severe toxic effects in a variety of organs usually at a low level. The present study focused on the liver oxidative stress, one of the most important roles playing in Hg hepatotoxicity, by evaluation of different concentrations of mercuric chloride (HgCl2) administration. Moreover, the protective potential of curcumin against Hg hepatotoxic effects was also investigated. Eighty-four rats were randomly divided into six groups for a three-days experiment: control, dimethyl sulfoxide control, HgCl2 treatment (0.6, 1.2, and 2.4 mg kg−1 day−1), and curcumin pretreatment (100 mg kg−1 day−1) groups. Exposure of HgCl2 resulted in acute dose-dependent hepatotoxic effects. Administration of 2.4 mg kg−1 HgCl2 significantly elevated total Hg, nonprotein sulfhydryl, reactive oxygen species formation, malondialdehyde, apoptosis levels, serum lactate dehydrogenase, and alanine transaminase activities, with an impairment of superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase in the liver. Moreover, HgCl2 treatment activated nuclear factor-E2-related factor 2-antioxidant response element (Nrf2-ARE) signaling pathway in further investigation, with a significant upregulation of Nrf2, heme oxygenase-1, and γ-glutamylcysteine synthetase heavy subunit expression, relative to control. Pretreatment with curcumin obviously prevented HgCl2-induced liver oxidative stress, which may be due to its free radical scavenging or Nrf2-ARE pathway-inducing properties. Taking together these data suggest that curcumin counteracts HgCl2 hepatotoxicity through antagonizing liver oxidative stress.

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