Berberine, an isoquinoline alkaloid isolated from medicinal plants such as Berberis aristata, Coptis chinesis, Coptis japonica, Coscinium fenestatun, and Hydrastis Canadensis, is widely used in Asian countries for the treatment of diabetes, hypertension, and hypercholesterolemia. Interaction between berberine and the cytochrome P450 enzymes (CYPs) has been extensively reported, but there are only a few reports of this interaction in the diabetic state. In this study, the effect of berberine on the mRNA of the CYPs in primary mouse hepatocytes and in streptozotocin (STZ)-induced diabetic mice was investigated. In primary mouse hepatocytes, berberine suppressed the induction of Cyp1a1, Cyp1a2, Cyp2e1, Cyp3a11, Cyp4a10, and Cyp4a14 mRNA expression by their prototypical inducers in a concentration-dependent fashion. However, berberine treatment alone increased the expression of Cyp2b9 and Cyp2b10 mRNA. In vivo, berberine showed the same hypoglycemic activity as metformin, an established hypoglycemic drug. The hepatic mRNA levels of Cyp1a1, Cyp2b9, Cyp2b10, Cyp3a11, Cyp4a10, and Cyp4a14 were increased in STZ-induced diabetic mice. Interestingly, berberine itself suppressed the expression of Cyp2e1, an adverse hepatic event-associated enzyme, while the expression of Cyp3a11, Cyp4a10, and Cyp4a14 were restored to normal levels by berberine. In conclusion, berberine has the potential to modify the expression of CYPs by either suppression or enhancement of CYPs' levels. Consumption of berberine as an anti-hyperglycemic compound by diabetic patients might provide an extra benefit due to its potential to restore the expression of Cyp2e1, Cyp3a, and Cyp4a to normal levels. However, an herb-drug interaction might be of concern since any berberine-containing product would definitely cause pronounced interactions based on CYP3A4 inhibition.
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