Berberine-induced apoptosis in human prostate cancer cells is initiated by reactive oxygen species generation

Syed M Meeran, Suchitra Katiyar, Santosh K Katiyar
Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology 2008 May 15, 229 (1): 33-43
Phytochemicals show promise as potential chemopreventive or chemotherapeutic agents against various cancers. Here we report the chemotherapeutic effects of berberine, a phytochemical, on human prostate cancer cells. The treatment of human prostate cancer cells (PC-3) with berberine induced dose-dependent apoptosis but this effect of berberine was not seen in non-neoplastic human prostate epithelial cells (PWR-1E). Berberine-induced apoptosis was associated with the disruption of the mitochondrial membrane potential, release of apoptogenic molecules (cytochrome c and Smac/DIABLO) from mitochondria and cleavage of caspase-9,-3 and PARP proteins. This effect of berberine on prostate cancer cells was initiated by the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) irrespective of their androgen responsiveness, and the generation of ROS was through the increased induction of xanthine oxidase. Treatment of cells with allopurinol, an inhibitor of xanthine oxidase, inhibited berberine-induced oxidative stress in cancer cells. Berberine-induced apoptosis was blocked in the presence of antioxidant, N-acetylcysteine, through the prevention of disruption of mitochondrial membrane potential and subsequently release of cytochrome c and Smac/DIABLO. In conclusion, the present study reveals that the berberine-mediated cell death of human prostate cancer cells is regulated by reactive oxygen species, and therefore suggests that berberine may be considered for further studies as a promising therapeutic candidate for prostate cancer.

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