Berberine ameliorates depression-like behaviors in mice via inhibiting NLRP3 inflammasome-mediated neuroinflammation and preventing neuroplasticity disruption

Zongshi Qin, Dong Dong Shi, Wenqi Li, Dan Cheng, Ying Dan Zhang, Sen Zhang, Bun Tsoi, Jia Zhao, Zhen Wang, Zhang Jin Zhang

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: Neuroinflammation has been suggested that affects the processing of depression. There is renewed interest in berberine owing to its anti-inflammatory effects. Herein, we investigated whether berberine attenuate depressive-like behaviors via inhibiting NLRP3 inflammasome activation in mice model of depression. Methods: Adult male C57BL/6N mice were administrated corticosterone (CORT, 20 mg/kg/day) for 35 days. Two doses (100 mg/kg/day and 200 mg/kg/day) of berberine were orally administrated from day 7 until day 35. Behavioral tests were performed to measure the depression-like behaviors alterations. Differentially expressed gene analysis was performed for RNA-sequencing data in the prefrontal cortex. NLRP3 inflammasome was measured by quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction, western blotting, and immunofluorescence labeling. The neuroplasticity and synaptic function were measured by immunofluorescence labeling, Golgi–Cox staining, transmission electron microscope, and whole-cell patch-clamp recordings. Results: The results of behavioral tests demonstrated that berberine attenuated the depression-like behaviors induced by CORT. RNA-sequencing identified that NLRP3 was markedly upregulated after long-term CORT exposure. Berberine reversed the concentrations of peripheral and brain cytokines, NLRP3 inflammasome elicited by CORT in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus were decreased by berberine. In addition, the lower frequency of neuronal excitation as well as the dendritic spine reduction were reversed by berberine treatment. Together, berberine increases hippocampal adult neurogenesis and synaptic plasticity induced by CORT. Conclusion: The anti-depressants effects of berberine were accompanied by reduced the neuroinflammatory response via inhibiting the activation of NLRP3 inflammasome and rescued the neuronal deterioration via suppression of impairments in synaptic plasticity and neurogenesis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number54
JournalJournal of Neuroinflammation
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


  • Berberine
  • Depression
  • Neuroinflammation
  • NLRP3 inflammasome
  • Synaptic plasticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Immunology
  • Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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