Berberine inhibits the proliferation and migration of breast cancer ZR-75-30 cells by targeting Ephrin-B2

Phytomedicine. 2017 Feb 15;25:45-51. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2016.12.013. Epub 2016 Dec 22.


Background: Berberine, a plant-derived compound isolated from Coptis chinensis used in traditional Chinese medicine, has been shown to possess anti-cancer properties. However, no study has shown that berberine could target ephrin-B2, which plays a critical role in cell proliferation and migration.

Purpose: The aim of this study is to investigate the effect of berberine on cancer cell growth and migration, through the regulation of ephrin-B2 and downstream signaling molecules.

Methods: In this study, a high ephrin-B2-expressing cell membrane chromatography method was developed to investigate 48 crude extracts from traditional Chinese medicine that could act on ephrin-B2. Cell proliferative and wound-healing assays were used to study the effect of berberine on cancer cell growth and migration. The mechanism of berberine was investigated using western blot.

Results: Berberine was isolated from C. chinensis extracts and showed activity on the HEK293/ephrin-B2 cell membrane chromatography column. Berberine showed a greater inhibitory effect in high-expressing ephrin-B2 cells (HEK293/ephrin-B2 cells) than in normal HEK293 cells, and decreased the expression of ephrin-B2 and its PDZ binding proteins, which indicates that ephrin-B2 is a target of berberine. Furthermore, berberine downregulates the phosphorylation of VEGFR2 and downstream signaling members (AKT and Erk1/2), which in turn downregulates the expression of MMP2 and MMP9.

Conclusion: The above data confirm the inhibitory effects of berberine on ZR-75-30 cell proliferation and cell migration. Overall, our studies demonstrate that berberine inhibits cell growth and migration by targeting ephrin-B2.

Keywords: Berberine; Breast cancer; Cell growth; Cell migration; Ephrin-B2.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / therapeutic use
  • Berberine / pharmacology*
  • Berberine / therapeutic use
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Cell Cycle / drug effects
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Movement / drug effects*
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects*
  • Coptis / chemistry*
  • Ephrin-B2 / metabolism*
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Phosphorylation
  • Phytotherapy
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Ephrin-B2
  • Plant Extracts
  • Berberine