Background: Over 70% of cancer metastasis from prostate cancer develops bone metastases that are not sensitive to hormonal therapy, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy. The epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) genetic program is implicated as a significant contributor to prostate cancer progression. As such, targeting the EMT represents an important therapeutic strategy for preventing or treating prostate cancer metastasis. Berberine is a natural alkaloid with significant antitumor activities against many types of cancer cells. In this study, we investigated the molecular mechanism by which berberine represses the metastatic potential of prostate cancer. Methods: The effects of berberine on cell migration and invasion were determined by transwell migration assay and Matrigel invasion assay. Expressions of EMT-related genes were determined by an EMT PCR Array and a quantitative RT-PCR. The prognostic relevance of berberine's modulation of EMT-related genes in prostate cancer was evaluated using Kaplan-Meier survival analysis. Results: Berberine exerted inhibitory effects on the migratory and invasive abilities of highly metastatic prostate cancer cells. These inhibitory effects of berberine resulted in significant repression of a panel of mesenchymal genes that regulate the developmental EMT. Among EMT-related genes downregulated by berberine, high BMP7, NODAL and Snail gene expressions of metastatic prostate cancer tissues were associated with shorter survival of prostate cancer patients and provide potential therapeutic interventions. Conclusions: We concluded that berberine should be developed as a pharmacological agent for use in combination with other anticancer drug for treating metastatic prostate cancer.
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