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The Scientific World Journal
Volume 2012, Article ID 708292, 31 pages
Review Article

Interaction of Herbal Compounds with Biological Targets: A Case Study with Berberine

1Department of General Surgery, The First People’s Hospital of Shunde, Southern Medical University, Shunde, Guangdong 528300, China
2School of Health Sciences and Health Innovations Research Institute, RMIT University, Bundoora, VIC 3083, Australia
3Department of Surgery, The Third Hospital of Nanchang, Jiangxi, Nanchang 330009, China
4Department of Pharmaceutical Science, College of Pharmacy, University of South Florida, 12901 Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, MDC 30, Tampa, FL 33612, USA

Received 7 June 2012; Accepted 8 July 2012

Academic Editors: H.-W. Chang, L.-Y. Chuang, and S. Yasmin

Copyright © 2012 Xiao-Wu Chen et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Berberine is one of the main alkaloids found in the Chinese herb Huang lian (Rhizoma Coptidis), which has been reported to have multiple pharmacological activities. This study aimed to analyze the molecular targets of berberine based on literature data followed by a pathway analysis using the PANTHER program. PANTHER analysis of berberine targets showed that the most classes of molecular functions include receptor binding, kinase activity, protein binding, transcription activity, DNA binding, and kinase regulator activity. Based on the biological process classification of in vitro berberine targets, those targets related to signal transduction, intracellular signalling cascade, cell surface receptor-linked signal transduction, cell motion, cell cycle control, immunity system process, and protein metabolic process are most frequently involved. In addition, berberine was found to interact with a mixture of biological pathways, such as Alzheimer’s disease-presenilin and -secretase pathways, angiogenesis, apoptosis signalling pathway, FAS signalling pathway, Hungtington disease, inflammation mediated by chemokine and cytokine signalling pathways, interleukin signalling pathway, and p53 pathways. We also explored the possible mechanism of action for the anti-diabetic effect of berberine. Further studies are warranted to elucidate the mechanisms of action of berberine using systems biology approach.