The isoquinoline plant alkaloid berberine has anti-tumor effects on a variety of carcinoma cells, mainly through inhibition of cell proliferation, apoptosis induction and cell cycle arrest. However, the mechanisms underlying its role in tumor progression are unknown. In the present study, we investigated the molecular mechanisms involved in berberine-induced cell death in human hepatoma carcinoma cell (HCC) lines HepG2 and SMMC7721. Our results showed that berberine inhibited tumor cell viability in a dose- and time-dependent manner, and induced cell death via apoptosis and autophagy. Moreover, berberine treatment significantly inhibited CD147 expression by HCC cells in a dose-dependent manner. Overexpression of CD147 protein markedly reduced berberine-induced cell death. Our data provide the first experimental evidence that berberine induces cell death in HCC cells via downregulation of CD147 and suggest a new mechanism to explain its anti-tumor effects.
© 2011 Japanese Cancer Association.