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Berberine inhibits NLRP3 inflammasome activation and proinflammatory macrophage M1 polarization to accelerate peripheral nerve regeneration.

Berberine (BBR) has demonstrated potent anti-inflammatory effects by modulating macrophage polarization. Nevertheless, the precise mechanisms through which berberine regulates post-injury inflammation within the peripheral nerve system remain elusive. This study seeks to elucidate the role of BBR and its underlying mechanisms in inflammation following peripheral nerve injury (PNI). Adult male C57BL/6J mice subjected to PNI were administered daily doses of berberine (0, 60, 120, 180, 240 ​mg/kg) via gavage from day 1 through day 28. Evaluation of the sciatic function index (SFI) and paw withdrawal threshold revealed that BBR dose-dependently enhanced both motor and sensory functions. Immunofluorescent staining for anti-myelin basic protein (anti-MBP) and anti-neurofilament-200 (anti-NF-200), along with histological staining comprising hematoxylin-eosin (HE), luxol fast blue (LFB), and Masson staining, demonstrated that BBR dose-dependently promoted structural regeneration. Molecular analyses including qRT-PCR, Western blotting, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), and immunofluorescence confirmed that inactivation of the NLRP3 inflammasome by MCC950 shifted macrophages from the pro-inflammatory M1 phenotype to the anti-inflammatory M2 phenotype, while also impeding macrophage infiltration. Furthermore, BBR significantly downregulated the expression of the NLRP3 inflammasome and its associated molecules in macrophages, thereby mitigating NLRP3 inflammasome activation-induced macrophage M1 polarization and inflammation. In summary, BBR's neuroprotective effects were concomitant with the suppression of inflammation after PNI, achieved through the inhibition of NLRP3 inflammasome activation-induced macrophage M1 polarization.

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