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Int J Cardiol. 2011 Jan 21;146(2):153-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ijcard.2009.06.023. Epub 2009 Jul 3.

Berberine reduces both MMP-9 and EMMPRIN expression through prevention of p38 pathway activation in PMA-induced macrophages.

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Department of Cardiology, XinHua Hospital, Shanghai Jiaotong University Medical School, 1665 Kongjiang Road, Shanghai, 200092, PR China.



Overproduction of MMPs (matrix metalloproteinases) and EMMPRIN (extracellular matrix metalloproteinase inducer) by monocytes/macrophages leads to atherosclerotic plaque rupture by degrading the extracellular matrix. Serum MMP-9 levels may therefore represent a novel marker of inflammation in patients with known coronary artery disease. The purpose of our study was to determine if berberine, a natural extract from Rhizoma coptidis, had any effect on the expression of MMP-9 and EMMPRIN in PMA-induced macrophages.


Human monocytic THP-1 cells were pretreated with berberine for 1 h, and then induced by PMA for 48 h. Total RNA and protein were collected for Real-time PCR and Western blot analysis, respectively. Culture supernatants were collected to determine MMP-9 activity.


In the present study, we demonstrated that berberine inhibited the expression of MMP-9 and EMMPRIN at both the mRNA and protein levels in a dose-dependent manner in PMA-induced macrophages, and that it also reduced MMP-9 activity. Furthermore, berberine also suppressed p38 signaling pathway activation in PMA-induced macrophages.


The data indicate that berberine reduces MMP-9 and EMMPRIN expression by suppressing the activation of p38 pathway in PMA-induced macrophages. This suggests a potential role for berberine as a therapeutic aid for stabilizing atherosclerotic plaque.

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