Berberine, an isoquinoline alkaloid suppresses TXNIP mediated NLRP3 inflammasome activation in MSU crystal stimulated RAW 264.7 macrophages through the upregulation of Nrf2 transcription factor and alleviates MSU crystal induced inflammation in rats

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The current study was designed to investigate the therapeutic potential of berberine on monosodium urate (MSU) crystal stimulated RAW 264.7 macrophages and in MSU crystal induced rats. Our results indicate that berberine (25, 50 and 75 μM) suppressed the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines (interleukin–1beta (IL-1β) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα)) and intracellular reactive oxygen species in MSU crystal stimulated RAW 264.7 macrophages. The mRNA expression levels of IL-1β, caspase 1, nucleotide–binding oligomerization domain–like receptor pyrin domain containing 3 (NLRP3), thioredoxin interacting protein (TXNIP) and kelch–like ECH–associated protein 1 (Keap1) were found downregulated with the upregulation of nuclear factor erythroid–2–related factor 2 (Nrf2) transcription factor and its associated anti-oxidant enzymes: Heme oxygenase I (HO–1), superoxide dismutase (SOD1), glutathione peroxidase (GPx), NADPH quinone oxidoreductase–1 (NQO1) and catalase (CAT) in MSU crystal stimulated RAW 264.7 macrophages upon berberine treatment. Subsequently, western blot analysis revealed that berberine decreased the protein expression of IL-1β and caspase 1 and increased Nrf2 expression in RAW 264.7 macrophages. Immunofluorescence analysis also explored increased expression of Nrf2 in MSU crystal stimulated RAW 264.7 macrophages by berberine treatment. In addition, the paw edema, pain score, pro-inflammatory cytokines (IL-1β and TNFα) and articular elastase activity were found significantly reduced in berberine (50 mg/kg b·wt) administered MSU crystal-induced rats. Conclusively, our current findings suggest that berberine may represent as a potential candidate for the treatment of gouty arthritis by suppressing inflammatory mediators and activating Nrf2 anti-oxidant pathway.

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