Objective: Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the most prevalent autoimmune arthritis. Berberine
is an alkaloid isolated from Berberis vulgaris, and its anti-inflammatory effect has been identified.
Methods: Twenty newly diagnosed RA patients and 20 healthy controls participated. Peripheral
mononuclear cells were prepared and stimulated with bacterial lipopolysachharide (LPS,1 μg/ml),
exposed to different concentrations of berberine (10 and 50μM) and dexamethasone (10-7 M) as a
reference. The toxicity of compounds was evaluated by WST-1 assay. The expression of TNF-α
and IL-1β was determined by quantitative real-time PCR. Protein level of secreted TNF-α and
IL-1β was measured by using ELISA.
Results: Berberine did not have any toxic effect on cells, whereas Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) stimulation
caused a noticeable rise in TNF-α and IL-1β production. Berberine markedly downregulated
the expression of both TNF-α and IL-1β, and inhibited TNF-α and IL-1β secretion from LPS-stimulated
Discussion: This study provided a molecular basis for anti-inflammatory effect of berberine on human
mononuclear cells through the suppression of TNF-a and IL-1secretion. Our findings highlighted
the significant inhibitory effect of berberine on proinflammatory responses of mononuclear
cells from rheumatoid arthritis individuals, which may be responsible for antiinflammatory property
of Barberry. We observed that berberine at high concentration exhibited anti-inflammatory effect
in PBMCs of both healthy and patient groups by suppression of TNF-a and IL-1cytokines at
both mRNA and protein levels.
Conclusion: Berberine may inhibit the gene expression and production of pro-inflammatory cytokines
by mononuclear cells in rheumatoid arthritis and healthy individuals without affecting cell
viability. Future studies with a larger sample size are needed to prove the idea.