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eISSN: 1643-3750

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Berberine Protects Against Palmitate-Induced Apoptosis in Tubular Epithelial Cells by Promoting Fatty Acid Oxidation

Jiye Sun, Xuemei Chen, Ting Liu, Xushun Jiang, Yue Wu, Shan Yang, Wei Hua, Zhengdong Li, Huizhe Huang, Xiongzhong Ruan, Xiaogang Du

(Department of Nephrology, The First Affiliated Hospital of Chongqing Medical University, Chongqing, China (mainland))

Med Sci Monit 2018; 24:1484-1492

DOI: 10.12659/MSM.908927


BACKGROUND: Increased lipid accumulation in renal tubular epithelial cells (TECs) contributes to their injury and dysfunction and progression of tubulointerstitial fibrosis. Berberine (BBR), a natural plant alkaloid isolated from traditional medicine herbs, is effective in lowing serum lipid, and has a protective effect on chronic kidney disease (CKD) with dyslipidemia, including diabetic nephropathy. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of BBR on palmitate (PA)-induced lipid accumulation and apoptosis in TECs.
MATERIAL AND METHODS: Human kidney proximal tubular epithelial cell line (HK-2) cells were treated with PA, BBR, and/or palmitoyltransferase 1A (CPT1A) inhibitor Etomoxir. Intracellular lipid content was assessed by Oil Red O and Nile Red staining. Cell apoptosis rate was evaluated by flow cytometry assay. The expression of apoptosis-related protein cleaved-caspase3 and fatty acid oxidation (FAO)-regulating proteins, including CPT1A, peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor α (PPARα), and PPARγ co-activator-1α (PGC1α), was measured by Western blot analysis and immunofluorescence.
RESULTS: In the present study, PA treatment increased intracellular lipid deposition accompanied by elevated apoptosis in TECs compared with control group, whereas the protein expression of CPT1A, PPARα, and PGC1α, did not correspondingly increase in TECs. BBR significantly up-regulated the protein expression of CPT1A, PPARα, and PGC1α in TECs treated with or without PA, and reversed PA-induced intracellular lipid accumulation and apoptosis. Moreover, the CPT1A inhibitor Etomoxir counteracted the protective effect of BBR in TECs.
CONCLUSIONS: These in vitro findings suggest that PA can induce intracellular lipid accumulation and apoptosis in TECs, and the mechanism may be associated with inducing defective FAO, whereas BBR can protect TECs against PA-induced intracellular lipid accumulation and apoptosis by promoting FAO.

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