Although matrine, a primary active component of dried Sophora flavescens root (ku shen), is known to induce apoptosis in a variety of tumor cells in vitro, the molecular mechanism of such apoptosis remains elusive. This analysis of the cell cycle and apoptosis in matrine-treated human gallbladder carcinoma cells (GBC-SD) showed that matrine can indeed inhibit cell proliferation and induce G1 cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in a dose- and time-dependent manner. An additional western blot analysis of matrine-treated cells also showed caspase-3 and Bcl-2 activation, as well as cyclinE down-regulation. Overall, the results indicate that matrine perturbs gallbladder cancer cell progression during the G1 phase by down-regulating cyclinE and induces apoptosis by decreasing the expression of the antiapoptotic protein Bcl-2 and increasing expression of the proapoptotic protein Bax. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.