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Original Research Article

Exp Neurobiol 2010; 19(3): 140-145

Published online December 31, 2010

© The Korean Society for Brain and Neural Sciences

Effect of Berberine on Cell Survival in the Developing Rat Brain Damaged by MK-801

Taehwan Lee, Hwon Heo and Yunhee Kim Kwon*

Department of Biology and Department of Life and Nanopharmaceutical Science, Kyung Hee University, Seoul 130-701, Korea

Correspondence to: *To whom correspondence should be addressed.
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Berberine is an isoquinoline alkaloid isolated from goldenthread, Coptidis Rhizoma and shown to have many biological and pharmacological effects. We previously reported that berberine promotes cell survival and differentiation of neural stem cells. To examine whether berberine has survival promoting effect on damaged neuronal cells, we generated a cellular model under oxidative stress and an neonatal animal model of degenerating brain disease by injecting MK-801. MK801, a noncompetitive antagonist of N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptors, acts as a neurotoxin in developing rats by inhibiting NMDA receptors and induce neuronal cell death. We found that the survival rate of the SH-SY5Y cells under oxidative stress was increased by 287% and 344%, when treated with 1.5 and 3.0µg/ml berberine, respectively. In the developing rats injected by MK801, we observed that TUNEL positive apoptotic cells were outspread in entire brain. The cell death was decreased more than 3 fold in the brains of the MK-801-induced neurodegenerative animal model when berberine was treated to the model animals. This suggests that berberine promotes activity dependent cell survival mediated by NMDA receptor because berberine is known to activate neurons by blocking K+ current or lowering the threshold of the action potential. Taken together, berberine has neuroprotective effect on damaged neurons and neurodegenerating brains of neonatal animal model induced by MK-801 administration.

Keywords: Berberine, cell survival, oxidative stress, MK801 animal model