Berberine inhibits growth, induces G1 arrest and apoptosis in human epidermoid carcinoma A431 cells by regulating Cdki-Cdk-cyclin cascade, disruption of mitochondrial membrane potential and cleavage of caspase 3 and PARP

Sudheer K Mantena, Som D Sharma, Santosh K Katiyar
Carcinogenesis 2006, 27 (10): 2018-27
Chemotherapeutic approach using non-toxic botanicals may be one of the strategies for the management of the skin cancers. Here we report that in vitro treatment of human epidermoid carcinoma A431 cells with berberine, a naturally occurring isoquinoline alkaloid, decreased cell viability (3-77%, P < 0.05-0.001) and induced cell death (3-51%, P < 0.01-0.001) in a dose (5-75 microM)- and time (12-72 h)-dependent manner, which was associated with an increase in G(1) arrest. G(0)/G(1) phase of the cell cycle is known to be controlled by cyclin dependent kinases (Cdk), cyclin kinase inhibitors (Cdki) and cyclins. Our western blot analysis showed that berberine-induced G(1) cell cycle arrest was mediated through the increased expression of Cdki proteins (Cip1/p21 and Kip1/p27), a simultaneous decrease in Cdk2, Cdk4, Cdk6 and cyclins D1, D2 and E and enhanced binding of Cdki-Cdk. In additional studies, treatment of A431 cells with berberine (15-75 microM) for 72 h resulted in a significant dose-dependent increase in apoptosis (31-60%, P < 0.05-0.001) than non-berberine-treated control (11.7%), which was associated with an increased expression of pro-apoptotic protein Bax, decreased expression of anti-apoptotic proteins Bcl-2 and Bcl-xl, disruption of mitochondrial membrane potential, and activation of caspases 9, 3 and poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase. Pretreatment of A431 cells with the pan-caspase inhibitor (z-VAD-fmk) significantly blocked the berberine-induced apoptosis in A431 cells confirmed that berberine-induced apoptosis is mediated through activation of caspase 3-dependent pathway. Together, this study for the first time identified berberine as a chemotherapeutic agent against human epidermoid carcinoma A431 cells in vitro, further in vivo studies are required to determine whether berberine could be an effective chemotherapeutic agent for the management of non-melanoma skin cancers.

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