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The Effects of Berberine on Concanavalin A-Induced Autoimmune Hepatitis (AIH) in Mice and the Adenosine 5’-Monophosphate (AMP)-Activated Protein Kinase (AMPK) Pathway

Yangyang Wang, Lu Zhou, Yanni Li, Liping Guo, Zhe Zhou, Haoran Xie, Yingjian Hou, Bangmao Wang

Department of Gastroenterology, Tianjin Medical University General Hospital, Tianjin, China (mainland)

Med Sci Monit 2017; 23:6150-6161

DOI: 10.12659/MSM.907377

Available online:

Published: 2017-12-28


BACKGROUND: Berberine, a herbal extract, has been reported to protect against inflammatory disorders. The adenosine 5’-monophosphate (AMP)-activated protein kinase (AMPK) signaling pathway can be activated by berberine and inhibited by the synthetic, reversible AMP-competitive inhibitor, Compound C. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of berberine on concanavalin A (Con A)-induced autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) in mice via the AMPK pathway.
MATERIAL AND METHODS: BALB/c mice were treated with berberine, with or without Compound C, followed by treatment with Con A. Serum aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and alanine aminotransferase (ALT) were measured. Liver tissue histology was performed to evaluate hepatic injury and AIH. Cytokine levels in serum and hepatic tissue were measured by enzyme-linked immunoassay (ELISA) and used quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR). Levels of phosphorylated acetyl coenzyme-A carboxylase (ACC), representing AMPK activation, were detected by Western blotting.
RESULTS: Serum ALT and AST levels were significantly reduced by berberine (100 and 200 mg/kg/day) in mice with Con A-induced hepatitis. Berberine also reduced Con A-induced hepatocyte swelling, cell death, and infiltration of leukocytes. Serum levels of tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha, interferon (IF)-gamma, interleukin (IL)-2, and IL-1beta were reduced by berberine pre-treatment; levels of serum IL-10, an anti-inflammatory cytokine, was elevated. These protective effects of berberine on Con-A-induced AIH were reversed by treatment with Compound C.
CONCLUSIONS: In a murine model of Con A-induced AIH, berberine treatment reduced hepatic injury via activation of the AMPK pathway. Further studies are recommended to determine the potential therapeutic role for berberine in AIH.

Keywords: AMP-Activated Protein Kinases, Berberine, Hepatitis, Autoimmune, Liver



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