Increasing evidence demonstrates that berberine (BBR) is beneficial for obesity-associated non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). However, it remains to be elucidated how BBR improves aspects of NAFLD. Here we revealed an AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK)-independent mechanism for BBR to suppress obesity-associated inflammation and improve hepatic steatosis. In C57BL/6J mice fed a high-fat diet (HFD), treatment with BBR decreased inflammation in both the liver and adipose tissue as indicated by reduction of the phosphorylation state of JNK1 and the mRNA levels of proinflammatory cytokines. BBR treatment also decreased hepatic steatosis, as well as the expression of acetyl-CoA carboxylase and fatty acid synthase. Interestingly, treatment with BBR did not significantly alter the phosphorylation state of AMPK in both the liver and adipose tissue of HFD-fed mice. Consistently, BBR treatment significantly decreased the phosphorylation state of JNK1 in both hepatoma H4IIE cells and mouse primary hepatocytes in both dose-dependent and time-dependent manners, which was independent of AMPK phosphorylation. BBR treatment also caused a decrease in palmitate-induced fat deposition in primary mouse hepatocytes. Taken together, these results suggest that BBR actions on improving aspects of NAFLD are largely attributable to BBR suppression of inflammation, which is independent of AMPK.
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