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Planta Med. 2014 Mar;80(5):399-408. doi: 10.1055/s-0034-1368183. Epub 2014 Mar 11.

Matrine cooperates with all-trans retinoic acid on differentiation induction of all-trans retinoic acid-resistant acute promyelocytic leukemia cells (NB4-LR1): possible mechanisms.

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Department of Hematology, Zhejiang Provincial Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Hangzhou, China.
Department of Bone Marrow Transplantation, First Affiliated Hospital of Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China.
Zhejiang University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Hangzhou, China.


Retinoic acid resistance results in refractory disease, and recovery in acute promyelocytic leukemia remains a challenge in clinical practice, with no ideal chemotherapeutic drug currently available. Here we report on the effect of an active compound of Sophora flavescens called matrine (0.1 mmol/L) combined with all-trans retinoic acid (1 µmol/L) in alleviating retinoic acid resistance in acute promyelocytic leukemia-derived NB4-LR1 cells by differentiation induction, as can be seen by an induced morphology change, increased CD11b expression, and nitro blue tetrazolium reduction activity, and a decreased expression of the promyelocytic leukemia-retinoic acid receptor α fusion gene and protein product. We further explored the probable mechanism of how matrine promotes the recovery of differentiation ability in NB4-LR1 cells when exposed to all-trans retinoic acid. We observed that the combination of all-trans retinoic acid and matrine can increase the level of cyclic adenosine monophosphate and protein kinase A activity, reduce telomerase activity, and downregulate the protein expression of topoisomerase II beta in NB4-LR1 cells. The results of this study suggest the possible clinical utility of matrine in the treatment of retinoic acid-resistant acute promyelocytic leukemia.

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