Berberine shows anticancer, antibacterial, antiinflammatory and antioxidant effects and may be useful in many clinical applications. The effects of berberine on articular cartilage metabolism remain unknown, so this study was performed to evaluate these effects in vitro and in vivo. For the in vitro work, rat articular chondrocytes were cultured in a monolayer and matrix metalloproteinase-1 (MMP-1), -3, -13 and tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase (TIMP-1) expression was evaluated by real-time quantitative PCR. Nitric oxide (NO) levels were determined using the Griess reaction, and glycosaminoglycan (GAG) release was measured using the dimethylmethylene blue method. For the in vivo work, berberine was administered by intraarticular injection, and the effects on MMPs and TIMP-1 were examined at the gene and protein levels. Berberine was found to inhibit the expression of MMP-1, -3 and -13, and increased the level of TIMP-1 at the mRNA level in a dose-dependent manner. In IL-1β-induced rat articular chondrocytes, berberine decreased IL-1β-induced GAG release and NO production. Meanwhile, high-dose berberine exhibited an anticatabolic effect in an IL-1β-induced rat osteoarthritis (OA) model. These findings suggest that berberine may play a protective role in the development of OA and may be useful in the treatment of OA.
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