Korean J Physiol Pharmacol.  2018 Mar;22(2):183-192. 10.4196/kjpp.2018.22.2.183.

Berberine alleviates symptoms of anxiety by enhancing dopamine expression in rats with post-traumatic stress disorder

  • 1Acupuncture and Meridian Science Research Center, College of Korean Medicine, Kyung Hee University, Seoul 02447, Korea. bombi@khu.ac.kr
  • 2Center for Converging Humanities, College of Medicine, Kyung Hee University, Seoul 02447, Korea.
  • 3Department of Physiology, College of Medicine, Kyung Hee University, Seoul 02447, Korea. dhhahm@khu.ac.kr


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a trauma-induced psychiatric disorder characterized by impaired fear extermination, hyperarousal, anxiety, depression, and amnesic symptoms that may involve the release of monoamines in the fear circuit. The present study measured several anxiety-related behavioral responses to examine the effects of berberine (BER) on symptoms of anxiety in rats after single prolonged stress (SPS) exposure, and to determine if BER reversed the dopamine (DA) dysfunction. Rats received BER (10, 20, or 30 mg/kg, intraperitoneally, once daily) for 14 days after SPS exposure. BER administration significantly increased the time spent in the open arms and reduced grooming behavior during the elevated plus maze test, and increased the time spent in the central zone and the number of central zone crossings in the open field test. BER restored neurochemical abnormalities and the SPS-induced decrease in DA tissue levels in the hippocampus and striatum. The increased DA concentration during BER treatment may partly be attributed to mRNA expression of tyrosine hydroxylase and the DA transporter in the hippocampus, while BER exerted no significant effects on vesicular monoamine transporter mRNA expression in the hippocampus of rats with PTSD. These results suggest that BER had anxiolytic-like effects on behavioral and biochemical measures associated with anxiety. These findings support a role for reduced anxiety altered DAergic transmission and reduced anxiety in rats with PTSD. Thus, BER may be a useful agent to treat or alleviate psychiatric disorders like those observed in patients with PTSD.


Anxiety; Berberine; Dopamine; Post-traumatic stress disorder; Single prolonged stress
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