© 2015 Zhang et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Traditional Chinese medicinal herbs containing berberine have been historically used to prevent miscarriage. Here, we investigated whether the anti-apoptotic effects of berberine on pre-implantation embryonic development are regulated by miRNA-21. Mouse pronuclear embryos were cultured in medium with or without berberine, and some were then microinjected with a miRNA-21 inhibitor. The in vitro developmental rates of 2- and 4-cell embryos and blastocysts, blastocyst cell numbers, apoptotic rates, and apoptotic cell numbers were measured in each group. Furthermore, we examined the transcription levels of miRNA-21 and its target genes (caspase-3, PTEN, and Bcl-2) and their translation levels. Comparisons were made with in vivo-developed and untreated embryos. We found that berberine significantly increased the developmental rates and cell numbers of mouse blastocysts and decreased apoptotic cell rates in vitro. Berberine also significantly increased miRNA-21 and Bcl-2 transcription levels and significantly decreased caspase-3 and PTEN transcription levels. In embryos treated with a miRNA-21 inhibitor, the results followed the opposite trend; PTEN and caspase-3 transcription levels increased significantly, while the transcription level of Bcl-2 decreased significantly. Additionally, berberine treatment significantly increased the Bcl-2 protein level and significantly decreased the caspase-3 and PTEN protein levels in blastocysts, but there were no significant differences observed in the levels of these proteins in 2- and 4-cell embryos. This study revealed that miRNA-21 is important for pre-implantation embryonic development, especially blastocyst development in vitro. Berberine elevates miRNA-21 expression, decreases PTEN and caspase-3 levels, increases Bcl-2 levels, and exerts anti-apoptotic and pro-growth effects.
Zhang, C., Shi, Y. R., Liu, X. R., Cao, Y. C., Zhen, D., Jia, Z. Y., … Gao, J. M. (2015). The anti-apoptotic role of berberine in preimplantation embryo in vitro development through regulation of miRNA-21. PLoS ONE, 10(6). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0129527