Berberine ameliorates colonic damage accompanied with the modulation of dysfunctional bacteria and functions in ulcerative colitis rats

Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2020 Feb;104(4):1737-1749. doi: 10.1007/s00253-019-10307-1. Epub 2019 Dec 23.


Intestinal flora imbalance is one of the potential pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel diseases, and the study aims to discover the effect of berberine on the composition and function of gut microbiota in ulcerative colitis (UC) rats. UC rats were induced by dextran sulfate sodium (DSS) and administrated with berberine. Colonic morphological changes and claudin-1 protein of colon tissues were primarily examined to validate the protective effects brought by berberine treatment. Then the composition and function of gut microbiota were analyzed, accompanied with quantitative analysis of serum amino acids. The results showed that berberine could not only ameliorate the colonic damages in DSS-induced UC rats but also regulate the gut microbiota by increasing lactic acid-producing bacteria and carbohydrate hydrolysis bacteria as well as decreasing conditional pathogenic bacteria. Accordingly, the relevant functions of above bacteria were improved, including the metabolism and biosynthesis of amino acids, capability of DNA replication and repair, carbohydrate digestion and absorption and glycolysis/gluconeogenesis. Furthermore, the serum amino acids were regulated and showed high correlation with the gut microbiota after berberine treatment. In conclusion, the study confirms the effect of berberine on ameliorating the colonic damage and highlights some specific bacteria and relevant functions linked with berberine treatment, exploring the potential of gut microbiota as a diagnostic biomarker or a therapeutic target in UC treatment.

Keywords: Amino acid; Berberine; Function prediction; Gut microbiota; Ulcerative colitis.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / blood
  • Animals
  • Bacteria / drug effects*
  • Bacteria / pathogenicity
  • Berberine / therapeutic use*
  • Claudin-1
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / chemically induced
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / drug therapy*
  • Colon / drug effects
  • Dextran Sulfate
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / drug effects*
  • Lactobacillales / drug effects
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Specific Pathogen-Free Organisms


  • Amino Acids
  • Claudin-1
  • Berberine
  • Dextran Sulfate