Protective effects of berberine hydrochloride on DSS-induced ulcerative colitis in rats

Int Immunopharmacol. 2019 Mar:68:242-251. doi: 10.1016/j.intimp.2018.12.036. Epub 2019 Feb 8.


Background: Berberine hydrochloride is one the effective compound among Rhizoma Coptidis, Cortex Phellodendri, and other plants. There are several clinical functions of berberine hydrochloride including anti-inflammation, antitumor and immunoregulatory. However, the anti-inflammatory of berberine hydrochloride in ulcerative colitis is barely understood. In this study, we aimed to explore the effects of berberine hydrochloride on dextran sulfate sodium (DSS)-induced rats model of ulcerative colitis.

Methods: The severity of colitis were measured by body weight, survial rate, colon length and disease activity index (DAI) score. The cytokines expression include IL-1, IL-1β, IL-4, IL-6, IL-10, IL-12, TNF-α, TGF-β and IFN-γ were performed by RT-PCR and ELISA. Signaling pathway proteins such as p-STAT3, STAT3, p-NF-κB p65 and NF-κB p65 were analyzed by western blot and immunofluorescence. The proteins expression of tight junction were explored using western blotting and immunohistochemistry.

Result: Rats were administered berberine hydrochloride showed less weight loss and longer colon length than the DSS-induced group. The expression of IL-1, IL-1β, IL-6, IL-12, TNF-α, TGF-β and IFN-γ were suppressed, yet the expression of IL-4 and IL-10 were up-regulated by berberine hydrochloride and sulphasalazine treatment compared to the model group. Meanwhile, treatment with berberine hydrochloride effectively increased the expression of SIgA and decreased the expression of iNOS, MPO, MDA. In terms of the biochemical analyses, the results showed that the expression of p-STAT3 was signifcantly increased, while the expression of p-NF-κB (p65) was suppressed compared to the model group via western blot and immunofluorescence analysis.

Conclusions: Berberine hydrochloride has beneficial effects in UC. The possible mechanism of anti-inflammatory response by berberine hydrochloride may involve in the blocking of the IL-6/STAT3/NF-κB signaling pathway. Collectively, these fndings provide evidence that berberine hydrochloride might be a useful herb medicine and serve as a promising novel therapy in the treatment of UC in humans.

Keywords: Berberine hydrochloride; IL-6/STAT3/NF-κB; Inflammation; Ulcerative colitis.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Berberine / pharmacology
  • Berberine / therapeutic use*
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / chemically induced
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / drug therapy*
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / immunology
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Dextran Sulfate
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Male
  • NF-kappa B / immunology
  • Rats, Wistar
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor / immunology


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Cytokines
  • NF-kappa B
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor
  • Stat3 protein, rat
  • Berberine
  • Dextran Sulfate