Berberine exerts an anti-adipogenic activity that is associated with the down-regulation of C/EBPα and PPARγ. Stimulation of AMP-activated kinase (AMPK) caused by inhibition of mitochondrial respiration has been suggested to underlie such molecular regulation. In the present study, we show that berberine up-regulated the expression of two different sets of C/EBP inhibitors, CHOP and DEC2, while down-modulating C/EBPα, PPARγ and other adipogenic markers and effectors in differentiating 3T3-L1 preadipocytes and mature adipocytes. Data also suggested that the berberine-induced up-regulation of CHOP and DEC2 was attributable to selective activation of an unfolded protein response (UPR) and modified extracellular environment, respectively. As a result, the anti-adipogenic activity of berberine was diminished remarkably by adjusting the differentiation culture media and limitedly but consistently by knockdown of CHOP expression. Together, up-regulation of C/EBP inhibitors appears to underlie the berberine-induced repression of C/EBPα and PPARγ and, so, the inhibition of adipogenesis.
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