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Life Sci. 1991;49(4):315-24.

Interaction of berberine with human platelet alpha 2 adrenoceptors.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, UCLA School of Medicine 90024.


Berberine, an alkaloid, has been found to have a myriad of pharmacological effects including hypotensive, antisecretory, sedative, and antimicrobial effects, some of which are similar to those of clonidine, an alpha 2 adrenoceptor partial agonist. The interaction of berberine with human platelet alpha 2 adrenoceptor was investigated in this study. Berberine was found to inhibit competitively the specific binding of [3H]-yohimbine. The displacement curve was parallel to those of clonidine, epinephrine, norepinephrine, with the rank order of potency (IC50) being clonidine (0.4 microM) greater than epinephrine (7.5 microM) greater than norepinephrine (14.5 microM) = berberine (16.6 microM). Increasing concentrations of berberine from 0.1 microM to 10 microM inhibited [3H]-yohimbine binding, shifting the saturation binding curve to the right without decreasing the maximum binding capacity. In platelet cyclic AMP accumulation experiments, berberine at concentrations of 0.1 microM to 0.1 mM inhibited the cAMP accumulation induced by 10 microM prostaglandin E1 in a dose dependent manner, acting as an alpha 2 adrenoceptor agonist. In the presence of L-epinephrine, berberine blocked the inhibitory effect of L-epinephrine behaving as an alpha 2 adrenoceptor antagonist. These properties are similar to those of clonidine on human platelets, suggesting that berberine is a partial agonist of platelet alpha 2 adrenoceptors. These findings may provide potential mechanisms for the hypotensive, antisecretory, and sedative effects of berberine.

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