Berberine exhibits antioxidative effects and reduces apoptosis of the vaginal epithelium in bacterial vaginosis

Exp Ther Med. 2019 Sep;18(3):2122-2130. doi: 10.3892/etm.2019.7772. Epub 2019 Jul 12.


Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a common type of vaginitis. Berberine is a natural alkaline product that reduces oxidative stress and apoptosis in cells. The aim of the present study was to investigate the effects of berberine on oxidative stress and apoptotic rates of BV. Vaginal epithelial and discharge samples were obtained from 60 healthy individuals and 180 patients with BV before and after one month of berberine treatment. Clinical observation was documented for all patients before and after treatment for comparison. Additionally, an in vitro study was performed; the samples were divided into groups the following groups: Control, model (H2O2-treated), LT (low-dose berberine), MT (medium-dose berberine) and HT (high-dose berberine). Expression levels of the oxidative stress related proteins were detected by western blotting. Clinical symptoms of patients with BV significantly improved following berberine treatment. Oxidative stress in vaginal discharge was significantly lower following treatment, indicated by the increased activity of superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase, as well as the reduced levels of malondialdehyde and H2O2. Apoptosis of the vaginal epithelial cells was also reduced, which was indicated by the reduced expression of apoptosis proteins caspase-3, cytochrome C, capase-12 and Bax, and increased expression of Bcl-2. The results of the in vitro experiments demonstrated a dose-dependent decrease in apoptosis with berberine treatment compared with levels before treatment. Oxidative stress relief was demonstrated by the reduced reactive oxygen species level and increased SOD and endothelial nitric oxide synthase levels, whereas suppression of apoptosis was further supported by the reduction in apoptotic proteins, as well as a decreased Bax/Bcl-2 ratio. Berberine exhibited effects on lowering oxidative stress in vaginal discharge and reducing oxidative damage, as well as apoptosis of the vaginal epithelium, which are beneficial to patients with bacterial vaginosis.

Keywords: apoptosis; bacterial vaginosis; berberine; hydrogen peroxide; oxidative stress.