Chronic inhalation of high concentrations of respirable quartz particles has been implicated in various lung diseases including lung fibrosis and cancer. Generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and oxidative stress is considered a major mechanism of quartz toxicity. Curcumin, a yellow pigment from Curcuma longa, has been considered as nutraceutical because of its strong anti-inflammatory, antitumour and antioxidant properties. The aim of our present study was to investigate whether curcumin can protect lung epithelial cells from the cytotoxic, genotoxic and inflammatory effects associated with quartz (DQ12) exposure. Electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) measurements using the spin-trap DMPO demonstrated that curcumin reduces hydrogen peroxide-dependent hydroxyl-radical formation by quartz. Curcumin was also found to reduce quartz-induced cytotoxicity and cyclooxygenase 2 (COX-2) mRNA expression in RLE-6TN rat lung epithelial cells (RLE). Curcumin also inhibited the release of macrophage inflammatory protein-2 (MIP-2) from RLE cells as observed upon treatment with interleukin-1 beta (IL-1beta) and tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNFalpha). However, curcumin failed to protect the RLE cells from oxidative DNA damage induced by quartz, as shown by formamidopyrimidine glycosylase (FPG)-modified comet assay and by immunocytochemistry for 8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine. In contrast, curcumin was found to be a strong inducer of oxidative DNA damage itself at non-cytotoxic and anti-inflammatory concentrations. In line with this, curcumin also enhanced the mRNA expression of the oxidative stress response gene heme oxygenase-1 (ho-1). Curcumin also caused oxidative DNA damage in NR8383 rat alveolar macrophages and A549 human lung epithelial cells. Taken together, these observations indicate that one should be cautious in considering the potential use of curcumin in the prevention or treatment of lung diseases associated with quartz exposure. AD - Institut fur umweltmedizinische Forschung (IUF) at the Heinrich-Heine-University Dusseldorf gGmbH, Auf'm Hennekamp 50, 40225 Dusseldorf, Germany.