Impact of Berberine on the Expression of Apollon Gene in Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

Background: The incidence of B-chronic lymphocytic leukemia (B-CLL) resulting from the clonal accumulation of apoptosis-resistant malignant B lymphocytes is growing in the adult population of Iran. Inhibitors of apoptosis proteins (IAPs) are considered as factors that can delay the onset of CLL cell apoptosis. Berberine is an isoquinoline alkaloid isolated from Cotridis rhizoma that exhibits anti-tumor activities through various mechanisms. Objectives: In this study, we investigated the impact of berberine on the level of Apollon expression in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) of 12 cases newly diagnosed with CLL and 6 healthy donors. Methods: At first, the level of Apollon expression was assessed in PBMCs of CLL patients compared to the healthy donors. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells were cultured in RPMI-1640 medium with 5% fetal bovine serum (FBS) and 1% penicillin/streptomycin for 48 hours, and the effect of berberine (25 µM) on the level of Apollon expression in CLL patients was assessed and compared to that of healthy donors. Results: We found that the expression level of Apollon was not significantly different between CLL patients and healthy donors (P = 0.640). Moreover, berberine induced no significant differences in Apollon expression as compared to the untreated (control) group (P = 0.545 and P = 0.267 in CLL patients and healthy donors, respectively). Conclusions: Overall, our results suggest that berberine has no direct effect on the expression of Apollon gene in CLL patients, and pro-apoptotic impacts of berberine may be exerted through other mechanisms.