Berberine Inhibition of Fibrogenesis in a Rat Model of Liver Fibrosis and in Hepatic Stellate Cells

Ning Wang, Qihe Xu, Hor Yue Tan, Ming Hong, Sha Li, Man-Fung Yuen, Yibin Feng*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Aim: To examine the effect of berberine (BBR) on liver fibrosis and its possible mechanisms through direct effects on hepatic stellate cells (HSC). Methods. The antifibrotic effect of BBR was determined in a rat model of bile duct ligation- (BDL-) induced liver fibrosis. Multiple cellular and molecular approaches were introduced to examine the effects of BBR on HSC. 

Results: BBR potently inhibited hepatic fibrosis induced by BDL in rats. It exhibited cytotoxicity to activated HSC at doses nontoxic to hepatocytes. High doses of BBR induced apoptosis of activated HSC, which was mediated by loss of mitochondrial membrane potential and Bcl-2/Bax imbalance. Low doses of BBR suppressed activation of HSC as evidenced by the inhibition of α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) expression and cell motility. BBR did not affect Smad2/3 phosphorylation but significantly activated 5′ AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) signalling, which was responsible for the transcriptional inhibition by BBR of profibrogenic factors α-SMA and collagen in HSC.

Conclusion: BBR is a promising agent for treating liver fibrosis through multiple mechanisms, at least partially by directly targeting HSC and by inhibiting the AMPK pathway. Its value as an antifibrotic drug in patients with liver disease deserves further investigation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8762345
Number of pages11
JournalEvidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2016

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Complementary and alternative medicine


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