Berberine ameliorates DSS-induced intestinal mucosal barrier dysfunction through microbiota-dependence and Wnt/β-catenin pathway

Int J Biol Sci. 2022 Jan 16;18(4):1381-1397. doi: 10.7150/ijbs.65476. eCollection 2022.


Ulcerative colitis (UC) is an idiopathic, chronic inflammatory disorder of the colon, and it has become one of the world-recognized medical problems as it is recurrent and refractory. Berberine (BBR) is an effective drug for UC treatment. However, the underlying mechanism and targets remain obscure. In this study, we systematically investigated the therapeutic effect and its mechanism of BBR in ameliorating DSS-induced mouse colitis. Expectedly, the colon inflammation was significantly relieved by BBR, and microbiota depletion by antibiotic cocktail significantly reversed the therapeutic effect. Further studies showed that BBR can regulate the abundance and component of bacteria, reestablish the broken chemical and epithelial barriers. Meanwhile, BBR administration dramatically decreased ILC1 and Th17 cells, and increased Tregs as well as ILC3 in colonic tissue of DSS-induced mice, and it was able to regulate the expression of various immune factors at the mRNA level. Moreover, a proteomic study revealed that Wnt/β-catenin pathway was remarkably enhanced in colonic tissue of BBR-treated mice, and the therapeutic effect of BBR was disappeared after the intervention of Wnt pathway inhibitor FH535. These results substantially revealed that BBR restores DSS-induced colon inflammation in a microbiota-dependent manner, and BBR performs its protective roles in colon by maintaining the structure and function of the intestinal mucosal barrier, regulating the intestinal mucosal immune homeostasis and it works through the Wnt/β-catenin pathway. Importantly, these findings also provided the proof that BBR serves as a potential gut microbiota modulator and mucosal barrier protector for UC prevention and therapy.

Keywords: Berberine; Intestinal mucosal barrier; Microbiota; Ulcerative colitis; Wnt/β-catenin pathway.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Berberine* / adverse effects
  • Berberine* / pharmacology
  • Berberine* / therapeutic use
  • Colitis* / chemically induced
  • Colitis* / drug therapy
  • Colitis* / metabolism
  • Colitis, Ulcerative* / metabolism
  • Colon / metabolism
  • Dextran Sulfate
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Proteomics
  • Wnt Signaling Pathway
  • beta Catenin / metabolism


  • beta Catenin
  • Berberine
  • Dextran Sulfate