Berberine and palmatine inhibit the growth of human rhabdomyosarcoma cells

Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2020 Jan;84(1):63-75. doi: 10.1080/09168451.2019.1659714. Epub 2019 Aug 29.


A natural isoquinoline alkaloid, berberine, has been known to exhibit anti-tumor activity in various cancer cells via inducing cell cycle arrest. However, it has not been investigated whether berberine and its analogs inhibit the growth of rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS), which is the most frequent soft tissue tumor in children. The present study examined the anti-tumor effects of berberine and palmatine on expansions of three human embryonal RMS cell lines; ERMS1, KYM1, and RD. Intracellular incorporation of berberine was relatively higher than that of palmatine in every RMS cell line. Berberine significantly inhibited the cell cycle of all RMS cells at G1 phase. On the other hand, palmatine only suppressed the growth of RD cells. Both of berberine and palmatine strongly inhibited the growth of tumorsphere of RD cells in three-dimensional culture. These results indicate that berberine derivatives have the potential of anti-tumor drugs for RMS therapy.Abbreviations: ARMS: alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma; ERMS: embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma; RMS: rhabdomyosarcoma.

Keywords: Berberine; palmatine; rhabdomyosarcoma; three-dimensional culture; tumorsphere.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / chemistry
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Berberine / analogs & derivatives
  • Berberine / chemistry
  • Berberine / pharmacology*
  • Berberine Alkaloids / chemistry
  • Berberine Alkaloids / pharmacology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects*
  • Cyclin D1 / genetics
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p57 / genetics
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical / methods
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / chemistry
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / pharmacology*
  • G1 Phase Cell Cycle Checkpoints / drug effects
  • Gene Expression / drug effects
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Ki-67 Antigen / genetics
  • Molecular Conformation
  • Molecular Docking Simulation
  • Phellodendron / chemistry
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma, Alveolar / metabolism
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma, Alveolar / pathology*
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma, Embryonal / metabolism
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma, Embryonal / pathology*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Berberine Alkaloids
  • CCND1 protein, human
  • CDKN1C protein, human
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p57
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal
  • Ki-67 Antigen
  • MKI67 protein, human
  • Berberine
  • Cyclin D1
  • palmatine