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World J Gastroenterol. 2006 Jan 7;12(1):21-8.

Berberine induces cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in human gastric carcinoma SNU-5 cell line.

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  • 1School of Chinese Medicine, China Medical University, Taichung City 404, Taiwan. China.



To investigate the relationship between the inhibited growth (cytotoxic activity) of berberine and apoptotic pathway with its molecular mechanism of action.


The in vitro cytotoxic techniques were complemented by cell cycle analysis and determination of sub-G1 for apoptosis in human gastric carcinoma SNU-5 cells. Percentage of viable cells, cell cycle, and sub-G1 group (apoptosis) were examined and determined by the flow cytometric methods. The associated proteins for cell cycle arrest and apoptosis were examined by Western blotting.


For SNU-5 cell line, the IC50 was found to be 48 micromol/L of berberine. In SNU-5 cells treated with 25-200 micromol/L berberine, G2/M cell cycle arrest was observed which was associated with a marked increment of the expression of p53, Wee1 and CDk1 proteins and decreased cyclin B. A concentration-dependent decrease of cells in G0/G1 phase and an increase in G2/M phase were detected. In addition, apoptosis detected as sub-G0 cell population in cell cycle measurement was proved in 25-200 micromol/L berberine-treated cells by monitoring the apoptotic pathway. Apoptosis was identified by sub-G0 cell population, and upregulation of Bax, downregulation of Bcl-2, release of Ca2+, decreased the mitochondrial membrane potential and then led to the release of mitochondrial cytochrome C into the cytoplasm and caused the activation of caspase-3, and finally led to the occurrence of apoptosis.


Berberine induces p53 expression and leads to the decrease of the mitochondrial membrane potential, Cytochrome C release and activation of caspase-3 for the induction of apoptosis.

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