Berberine modifies cysteine 179 of IκBα kinase, suppresses nuclear factor-κB-regulated antiapoptotic gene products, and potentiates apoptosis

Manoj K. Pandey, Bokyung Sung, Ajaikumar B. Kunnumakkara, Gautam Sethi, Madan M. Chaturvedi, Bharat B. Aggarwal

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Berberine, an isoquinoline alkaloid derived from a plant used traditionally in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, has been reported to exhibit chemopreventive and anti-inflammatory activities through unknown mechanism. Because of the critical role of the transcription factor nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) in these processes, we investigated the effect of berberine on this pathway. We found that berberine suppressed NF-κB activation induced by various inflammatory agents and carcinogens. This alkaloid also suppressed constitutive NF-κB activation found in certain tumor cells. Suppression of NF-κB activation occurred through the inhibition of phosphorylation and degradation of IκBα by the inhibition of IκB kinase (IKK) activation, leading to suppression of phosphorylation and nuclear translocation of p65, and finally to inhibition of NF-κB reporter activity. Inhibition of IKK by berbeine was direct and could be reversed by reducing agents. Site-specific mutagenesis suggested the involvement of cysteine residue 179 in IKK. Berberine also suppressed the expression of NF-κB-regulated gene products involved in antiapoptosis (Bcl-xL, Survivin, IAP1, IAP2, and cFLIP), proliferation (cyclin D1), inflammation (cyclooxygenase-2), and invasion (matrix metalloproteinase-9). Suppression of antiapoptotic gene products correlated with enhancement of apoptosis induced by tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α and chemotherapeutic agents and with inhibition of TNF-induced cellular invasion. Overall, our results indicate that chemopreventive, apoptotic, and antiinflammatory activities displayed by berberine may be mediated in part through the suppression of the NF-κB activation pathway. This may provide the molecular basis for the ability of berberine to act as an anticancer and antiinflammatory agent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5370-5379
Number of pages10
JournalCancer Research
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 1 2008
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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