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J Cell Sci. 2010 Dec 1;123(Pt 23):4145-55. doi: 10.1242/jcs.070896. Epub 2010 Nov 9.

TNFalpha-induced and berberine-antagonized tight junction barrier impairment via tyrosine kinase, Akt and NFkappaB signaling.

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Department of Gastroenterology, Charité, Campus Benjamin Franklin, Berlin 12200, Germany.


TNFα-mediated tight junction defects contribute to diarrhea in inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs). In our study, the signaling pathways of the TNFα effect on barrier- or pore-forming claudins were analyzed in HT-29/B6 human colon monolayers. Berberine, a herbal therapeutic agent that has been recently established as a therapy for diabetes and hypercholesterinemia, was able to completely antagonize the TNFα-mediated barrier defects in the cell model and in rat colon. Ussing chamber experiments and two-path impedance spectroscopy revealed a decrease of paracellular resistance after TNFα to 11±4%, whereas transcellular resistance was unchanged. The permeability of the paracellular marker fluorescein was increased fourfold. Berberine alone had no effect while it fully prevented the TNFα-induced barrier defects. This effect on resistance was confirmed in rat colon. TNFα removed claudin-1 from the tight junction and increased claudin-2 expression. Berberine prevented TNFα-induced claudin-1 disassembly and upregulation of claudin-2. The effects of berberine were mimicked by genistein plus BAY11-7082, indicating that they are mediated via tyrosine kinase, pAkt and NFκB pathways. In conclusion, the anti-diarrheal effect of berberine is explained by a novel mechanism, suggesting a therapeutic approach against barrier breakdown in intestinal inflammation.

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