Dendritic cells (DCs) are the most powerful antigen-presenting cells which link the innate and adaptive immune responses. Depending on the context DCs initiate the immune responses or contribute to immune tolerance. Any
disturbance in their phenotypes and functions may initiate inflammatory or autoimmune diseases. Hence, dysregulated
DCs are the most attractive pharmacological target for the development of new therapies aiming at reducing their immunogenicity and at enhancing their tolerogenicity. Curcumin is the polyphenolic phytochemical component of the spice
turmeric with a wide range of pharmacological activities. It acts in several ways as a modulator of DCs and converts them
into tolerogenic DCs. Tolerogenic DCs possess anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory activities that regulate the
immune responses in health and disease. Curcumin by blocking maturation markers, cytokines and chemokines expression, and disrupting the antigen-presenting machinery of DCs render them non- or hypo-responsive to immunostimulants.
It also reduces the expression of co-stimulatory and adhesion molecules on DCs and prevents them from both migration
and antigen presentation but enhances their endocytosis capacity. Hence, curcumin causes DCs-inducing regulatory T
cells and dampens CD4+ T helper 1 (Th1), Th2, and Th17 polarization. Inhibition of transcription factors such as NF-κB,
AP-1, MAPKs (p38, JNK, ERK) and other intracellular signaling molecules such as JAK/STAT/SOCS provide a plausible explanation for most of these observations. In this review, we summarize the potential effects of curcumin on the phenotypes and functions of DCs as the key players in orchestration, stimulation, and modulation of the immune responses.