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Eur J Pharmacol. 2013 Jan 5;698(1-3):259-66. doi: 10.1016/j.ejphar.2012.10.020. Epub 2012 Oct 23.

Hippocampal synaptic plasticity restoration and anti-apoptotic effect underlie berberine improvement of learning and memory in streptozotocin-diabetic rats.

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Department of Physiology, School of Medicine, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran.


Chronic diabetes mellitus initiates apoptosis and negatively affects synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus with ensuing impairments of learning and memory. Berberine, an isoquinoline alkaloid, exhibits anti-diabetic, antioxidant and nootropic effects. This study was conducted to evaluate the effect of berberine on hippocampal CA1 neuronal apoptosis, synaptic plasticity and learning and memory of streptozotocin (STZ)-diabetic rats. Long-term potentiation (LTP) in perforant path-dentate gyrus synapses was recorded for assessment of synaptic plasticity and field excitatory post-synaptic potential (fEPSP) slope and population spike (PS) amplitude. PS amplitude and fEPSP significantly decreased in diabetic group versus control, and chronic berberine treatment (100mg/kg/day, p.o.) restored PS amplitude and fEPSP and ameliorated learning and memory impairment and attenuated apoptosis of pyramidal neurons in the CA1 area, as determined by the terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase (TdT)-mediated dUTP nick end-labeling method. In summary, chronic berberine treatment of STZ-diabetic rats significantly ameliorates learning and memory impairment and part of its beneficial effect could be attributed to improvement of synaptic dysfunction and anti-apoptotic property.

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