Metabolic regulation is largely dependent on mitochondria, which play an important role in energy homeostasis. Mitochondrial dysfunction results in an imbalanced energy supply to the cell, which may compromise its survival. Due to the role of mitochondrial factors/events in several apoptotic pathways, the possibility of targeting that organelle in the tumor cell, leading to its elimination is very attractive, although the safety issue is problematic. Berberine, a benzyl-tetra isoquinoline alkaloid extracted from plants of the Berberidaceae family, has been extensively used for many centuries, especially in the traditional Chinese and Native American medicine. Several evidences suggest that berberine possesses several therapeutic uses, including anti-tumoral activity. The present review supplies evidence that berberine is a safe anti-cancer agent, exerting several effects on mitochondria, including inhibition of mitochondrial Complex I and interaction with the adenine nucleotide translocator which can explain several of the described effects on tumor cells.
Keywords: Berberine, cancer, anti-cancer agents, mitochondria, safety, pharmacology, apotosis, cell cycle, ATP, Resveratrol
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