Effects of berberine on proliferation, cell cycle distribution and apoptosis of human breast cancer T47D and MCF7 cell lines

Document Type : Original Article


1 Molecular Research Lab, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran

2 Department of Molecular Medicine, School of Advanced Technologies in Medicine, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran.

3 Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Faculty of Pharmacy, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran


Objective(s):Berberine, a naturally occurring isoquinoline alkaloid, has shown antitumor properties in some in vitro systems. But the effect of berberine on breast cancer has not yet been completely studied. In this study, we evaluated anticancer properties of berberine in comparison to doxorubicin.
Materials and Methods: The antiproliferative effects of berberine and doxorubicin alone and in combination were evaluated in T47D and MCF7 cell lines using MTT cytotoxicity assay. In addition, flow cytometry analysis was performed to evaluate the cell cycle alteration and apoptosis induction in these cell lines following exposure to berberine and doxorubicin alone and in combination.
Results: The IC50 of berberine was determined to be 25 µM after 48 hr of treatment in both cell lines but for doxorubicin it was 250 nM and 500 nM in T47D and MCF-7 cell lines, respectively. Co-treatment with berberine and doxorubicin increased cytotoxicity in T47D cells more significantly than in MCF-7 cells. Flow cytometry results demonstrated that berberine alone or in combination with doxorubicin induced G2/M arrest in the T47D cells, but G0/G1 arrest in the MCF-7 cells. Doxorubicin alone induced G2/M arrest in both cell lines. Furthermore, berberine and doxorubicin alone or in combination significantly induced apoptosis in both cell lines.
Conclusion: Berberine alone and in combination with doxorubicin inhibited cell proliferation, induced apoptosis and altered cell cycle distribution of breast cancer cells. Therefore, berberine showed to be a good candidate for further studies as a new anticancer drug in the treatment of human breast cancer.


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