Curcumin/Turmeric as an Environment-Friendly Protein Gel Stain

  • Biji T. KurienEmail author
  • Yaser Dorri
  • R. Hal Scofield
Part of the Methods in Molecular Biology book series (MIMB, volume 1853)


Curcumin, the main curcuminoid in food spice turmeric, is insoluble in water at room temperature. We showed that curcumin can be solubilized in water with the application of heat (100 °C). Here we demonstrate that heat-solubilized curcumin can serve as a nontoxic and environment-friendly fluorescent/colorimetric reversible protein stain. Curcumin, the yellow pigment found in the rhizomes of the perennial herb Curcuma longa (turmeric), is insoluble in aqueous solvents. However, heat solubilization in water renders 1.5% of curcumin soluble. Curcumin solubilized by ethanol or alkali is ineffective in staining proteins. Heat-solubilized curry spice turmeric also stains proteins. Staining is achieved in 30 min, with a sensitivity almost equaling that of Coomassie Brilliant Blue (CBB). Destaining is not required and excess curcumin/turmeric can be discarded into the sink. Binding of proteins by silver inhibits curcumin binding, suggesting similarity of protein binding by silver and curcumin. It costs $1.5–2.0 to stain a mini-gel with curcumin, while turmeric costs less than 0.005 cent. CBB staining/destaining costs about two cents. Curcumin/turmeric, thus, can serve as an ideal nontoxic protein stain.

Key words

Curcuminoid Curcumin SDS-PAGE Environment-friendly protein stain Coomassie Brilliant Blue Silver nitrate 


  1. 1.
    D’souza A, Scofield RH (2009) Protein stains to detect antigen on membranes. Methods Mol Biol 536:433–440CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Kurien BT, Scofield RH (1998) Heat mediated quick Coomassie blue protein staining and destaining of SDS-PAGE gels. Indian J Biochem Biophys 35:385–389PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Steinberg TH (2009) Protein gel staining methods: an introduction and overview. Methods Enzymol 463:541–563 ReviewCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Jin LT, Hwang SY, Yoo GS et al (2006) A mass spectrometry compatible silver staining method for protein incorporating a new silver sensitizer in sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide electrophoresis gels. Proteomics 6:2334–2337CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Jin LT, Hwang SY, Yoo GS et al (2004) Sensitive silver staining of protein in sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gels using an azo dye, calconcarboxylic acid, as a silver-ion sensitizer. Electrophoresis 25:2494–2500CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Møller HJ, Heinegård D, Poulsen JH (1993) Combined alcian blue and silver staining of subnanogram quantities of proteoglycans and glycosaminoglycans in sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gels. Anal Biochem 209:169–175CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Pal JK, Godbole D, Sharma K (2004) Staining of proteins on SDS polyacrylamide gels and on nitrocellulose membranes by Alta, a colour used as a cosmetic. J Biochem Biophys Methods 61:339–347CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Lin CY, Wang V, Shui HA et al (2009) A comprehensive evaluation of imidazole-zinc reverse stain for current proteomic researches. Proteomics 9:696–709CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Aggarwal BB, Kumar A, Aggarwal MS et al (2004) Curcumin derived from turmeric (Curcuma longa): a spice for all seasons. In: Bagchi D, Preuss HG (eds) Phytochemicals in cancer chemoprevention. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, pp 349–387Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Aggarwal BB, Sung B (2009) Pharmacological basis for the role of curcumin in chronic diseases: an age-old spice with modern targets. Trends Pharmacol Sci 30:85–94CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Bright JJ (2007) Curcumin and autoimmune disease. Adv Exp Med Biol 595:425–451 ReviewCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Rowe DL, Ozbay T, O'Regan RM et al (2009) Modulation of the BRCA1 protein and induction of apoptosis in triple negative breast cancer cell lines by the polyphenolic. Breast Cancer 3:61–75PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Anand P, Sundaram C, Jhurani S et al (2008) Curcumin and cancer: an “old-age” disease with an “age-old” solution. Cancer Lett 267:133–164 ReviewCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Kurien BT, Singh A, Matsumoto H et al (2007) Improving the solubility and pharmacological efficacy of curcumin by heat treatment. Assay Drug Dev Technol 5:567–576CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Kurien BT, Scofield RH (2009) Curry spice curcumin and prostate cancer. Mol Nutr Food Res 53:939–940CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Kurien BT (2009) Comment on Curcumin attenuates acrylamide-induced cytotoxicity and genotoxicity in HepG2 cells by ROS scavenging. J Agric Food Chem 57:5644–5646CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Kurien BT, Scofield RH (2009) Bubbling hookah smoke through heat-solubilized curcumin/turmeric and incorporation of the curry spice as an additive or filter in cigarettes to minimize tobacco smoke-related toxicants. Med Hypotheses 73:462–463CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Kurien BT, D’Souza A, Scofield RH (2010) Heat-solubilized curry spice curcumin inhibits antibody–antigen interaction in in vitro studies: a possible therapy to alleviate autoimmune disorders. Mol Nutr Food Res 54:1202–1209PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Laemmli UK (1970) Cleavage of structural proteins during the assembly of the head of bacteriophage T4. Nature 227:680–685CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Biji T. Kurien
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Yaser Dorri
    • 4
    • 5
  • R. Hal Scofield
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Section of Endocrinology and DiabetesUniversity of Oklahoma Health Sciences CenterOklahoma CityUSA
  2. 2.Department of Veterans Affairs Medical CenterOklahoma CityUSA
  3. 3.Department of Arthritis and Clinical ImmunologyOklahoma CityUSA
  4. 4.Diabetes and Endocrinology Section, Department of MedicineUniversity of Oklahoma Health Sciences CenterOklahoma CityUSA
  5. 5.Arthritis and Clinical ImmunologyOklahoma Medical Research Foundation, University of OklahomaOklahoma CityUSA

Personalised recommendations