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Berberine inhibits the expression of hypoxia induction factor-1alpha and increases the radiosensitivity of prostate cancer

Qu Zhang1, Chi Zhang2, Xi Yang2, Baixia Yang3, Jinfeng Wang1, Yahui Kang1, Zhongming Wang1, Defan Li1, Guanhong Huang1, Zhaoming Ma1, Xinchen Sun2, Jing Cai3, Guangzhou Tao4, Shengbin Dai5, Weidong Mao6 and Jianxin Ma1*

  • * Corresponding author: Jianxin Ma

  • † Equal contributors

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Radiotherapy, The Second People’s Hospital of LianYungang, Lianyungang Hospital Affiliated to Bengbu Medical College, Xingfu Road 161, Lianyungang, Jiangsu Province 222000, China

2 Department of Radiotherapy, The First Affiliated Hospital of Nanjing Medical University, Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, China

3 Department of Radiotherapy, Nantong Tumor Hospital Affiliated to Nantong University, Nantong, Jiangsu Province, China

4 Department of Radiotherapy, The First People’s Hospital of Huaian, Huaian, Jiangsu Province, China

5 Department of Radiotherapy, Taizhou People’s Hospital, Taizhou, Jiangsu Province, China

6 Department of Radiotherapy, Jiangyin People’s Hospital, Wuxi, Jiangsu Province, China

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Diagnostic Pathology 2014, 9:98  doi:10.1186/1746-1596-9-98

Published: 27 May 2014



The radiation resistance of prostate cancer remains the primary obstacle to improve patient survival. This study aimed to investigate the effects of berberine, a commonly used natural product, on the radiosensitivity of prostate cancer.


Prostate cancer cell line LNCaP and DU-145 were subjected to hypoxia and/or ionizing radiation (IR), in the presence or absence of berberine treatment. Cell growth and colony formation, and apoptosis were evaluated. Moreover, LNCaP cells were xenografted into nude mice and subjected to IR and/or berberine treatment. The expression of HIF-1α and VEGF in prostate cancer cells and xenografts was detected by Western blot analysis.


Berberine increased radiosensitivity of prostate cancer cells and xenografts in a dose dependent manner, and this was correlated with the inhibition of HIF-1α and VEGF expression.


Berberine may inhibit the expression of HIF-1α and VEGF and thus confer radiosensitivity on prostatic cancer cells. Berberine has potential application as an adjuvant in radiotherapy of prostatic cancer.

The virtual slide(s) for this article can be found here: webcite.

Berberine; Radiosensitivity; Prostate cancer; HIF-1α