Inhibitory effect of berberine on interleukin-2 secretion from PHA-treated lymphocytic Jurkat cells

Sindy Hu, Chien Wei Chen, Szu Tah Chen, Ke Hung Tsui, Tswen Kei Tang, Hao Tsai Cheng, Guey Shyang Hwang, Ju Wen Yu, Yi Chieh Li, Paulus S. Wang, Shyi Wu Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Berberine is an isoquinoline alkaloid isolated from herb plants, such as Cortex phellodendri (Huangbai) and Rhizoma coptidis (Huanglian). Huanglian and Huangbai have been used as “heat-removing” agents. In addition, berberine has been reported to exert anti-inflammatory effect both in vivo and in vitro, where mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) expressions are critically implicated. We herein tested the hypothesis that berberine exerts an anti-inflammatory effect through MAPK and COX-2 signaling pathway in T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL). In Jurkat cells, we found that PHA exposure caused elevation on interleukin-2 (IL-2) production in a time-dependent manner. PHA-stimulated reactions were steeply suppressed by berberine, such as IL-2 mRNA expression and protein secretion. However, berberine did not exert any cytotoxic effect at doses of 40 μg/ml. In addition, the possible molecular mechanism of anti-inflammation effect of berberine could be the inhibition of PHA-evoked phosphorylation of p38, since c-Jun N-terminal kinases (JNK) and extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) expressions did not alter. Consistent with above results, berberine inhibition on PHA-induced IL-2 secretion could be reversed by treatment of SB203580, a specific inhibitor of p38-MAPK. Interestingly, upregulation of PHA-induced COX-2 expression was also observed following berberine treatment of Jurkat cells. Furthermore, flow cytometry analysis showed berberine-induced cell cycle arrest at G1 phase after PHA stimulation and decreased percentage of G2/M phase. In conclusion, our study demonstrated that the anti-inflammatory effect of berberine largely potentially results from its ability to attenuate p38 MAPK expression, and does not exclude a positive action of berberine on cell cycle arrest. These results provide an innovative medicine strategy to against or treat T-ALL patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-273
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Immunopharmacology
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Berberine
  • Cell cycle
  • Cyclooxygenase-2
  • Interleukin-2
  • Jurkat cells
  • p38

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Pharmacology


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