Research Papers:

Tumor suppressor berberine binds VASP to inhibit cell migration in basal-like breast cancer

Ke Su _, Pengchao Hu, Xiaolan Wang, Changchun Kuang, Qingmin Xiang, Fang Yang, Jin Xiang, Shan Zhu, Lei Wei and Jingwei Zhang

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Oncotarget. 2016; 7:45849-45862. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.9968

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Ke Su1,*, Pengchao Hu2,*, Xiaolan Wang3, Changchun Kuang4, Qingmin Xiang2, Fang Yang5, Jin Xiang6, Shan Zhu7, Lei Wei2, Jingwei Zhang8

1Department of Nephrology, Renmin Hospital of Wuhan University, Wuhan 430060, P. R. China

2Department of Pathophysiology, School of Medicine, Wuhan University, Wuhan 430071, P. R. China

3Department of Pathology, Shanghai First People’s Hospital, Shanghai 200080, P. R. China

4Department of Pharmacy, Wuhan General Hospital of Guangzhou Command, Wuhan 430070, P. R. China

5Department of Plant Science, College of Life Sciences, Wuhan University, Wuhan 430072, P. R. China

6Department of Pharmacology, College of Pharmacy, Wuhan University, Wuhan 430071, P. R. China

7Department of Breast and Thyroid Surgery, Renmin Hospital of Wuhan University, Wuhan 430060, P. R. China

8Department of Oncology, Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University, Wuhan 430071, P. R. China

*These authors have contributed equally to this work

Correspondence to:

Jingwei Zhang, email: [email protected]

Keywords: berberine, basal-like subtype breast cancer, VASP, polymerization

Received: October 23, 2015    Accepted: May 29, 2016    Published: June 13, 2016


Berberine is a plant-derived compound used in traditional Chinese medicine, which has been shown to inhibit cell proliferation and migration in breast cancer. On the other hand, vasodilator-stimulated phosphoprotein (VASP) promotes actin filament elongation and cell migration. We previously showed that VASP is overexpressed in high-motility breast cancer cells. Here we investigated whether the anti-tumorigenic effects of berberine are mediated by binding VASP in basal-like breast cancer. Our results show that berberine suppresses proliferation and migration of MDA-MB-231 cells as well as tumor growth in MDA-MB-231 nude mouse xenografts. We also show that berberine binds to VASP, inducing changes in its secondary structure and inhibits actin polymerization. Our study reveals the mechanism underlying berberine’s inhibition of cell proliferation and migration in basal-like breast cancer, highlighting the use of berberine as a potential adjuvant therapeutic agent.

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