In vitro inhibition of Huanglian [Rhizoma coptidis (L.)] and its six active alkaloids on six cytochrome P450 isoforms in human liver microsomes

Phytother Res. 2011 Nov;25(11):1660-5. doi: 10.1002/ptr.3475. Epub 2011 Mar 21.


Huanglian (Rhizoma Coptidis) as a popular herb has been used for the treatment of various diseases such as diarrhea, eye inflammation and women's abdominal ailments. Alkaloids are considered to be responsible for its pharmacological effects. In this investigation, Huanglian and its six alkaloids (coptisine, epiberberine, berberine, jateorrhizine, palmatine and magnoflorine) were systematically evaluated for their inhibition of six cytochrome P450 isoforms (CYP1A2, CYP2C8, CYP2C9, CYP2C19, CYP2D6 and CYP3A4) in human liver microsomes by the LC-MS/MS method. Huanglian showed the strongest inhibition of CYP2D6, followed by CYP1A2 and CYP3A4_T. The IC₅₀ values were 5.8 µg/mL, 36.8 µg/mL and 59.2 µg/mL, respectively. Of the constituents tested, coptisine and epiberberine showed strong inhibition of CYP2D6 with IC₅₀ values of 4.4 µM and 7.7 µM; berberine, jateorrhizine and palmatine showed weak inhibition of CYP2D6 with IC₅₀ values of 45.5 µM, 49.4 µM and 92.6 µM, respectively; jateorrhizine showed moderate inhibition of CYP3A4_T with an IC₅₀ value of 13.3 µM; coptisine showed weak inhibition of CYP1A2 with an IC₅₀ value of 37.3 µM. In addition, activation was observed in coptisine/CYP2C9 and palmatine/CYP2C9/CYP2C19. Other CYP450 isoforms were not affected markedly by the six alkaloids. In conclusion, Huanglian showed in vitro inhibition of CYP2D6, the inhibition might be contributed mostly by protoberberine alkaloids, especially coptisine and epiberberine. Herb-drug interactions may occur through the CYP2D6 inhibition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alkaloids / pharmacology*
  • Coptis / chemistry*
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / drug effects*
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / pharmacology*
  • Herb-Drug Interactions
  • Humans
  • Inhibitory Concentration 50
  • Isoenzymes / drug effects
  • Microsomes, Liver / drug effects*
  • Rhizome / chemistry


  • Alkaloids
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal
  • Isoenzymes
  • huanglian
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System