Berberine is a plant alkaloid with a long history of medicinal use in Chinese medicine, and is one of the world’s most widely used natural products. The influence of gut microbiotal metabolism on the pharmacokinetics (PK) of berberine in healthy male Africans and Chinese is investigated. The maximum plasma concentrations and area under the curve (AUC) of PK profile in the Africans were 2.67-fold and 2.0-fold higher than the Chinese, respectively. Microbiotal compositions by 16S rRNA pyrosequencing showed higher abundance of the genera Prevotella, Bacteroides, and Megamonas (34.22, 13.88, and 10.68%, respectively) in the Chinese than the Africans (30.08, 9.43, and 0.48%, respectively). Scatter plot showed a strong negative correlation between the microbiotal abundance and the berberine AUC, especially for the genus Prevotella (r = −0.813) and its species. A more extensive metabolism was observed in Chinese with 1.83-fold higher metabolites, possibly contributing to the lower AUC than the Africans. In conclusion, significant PK differences of berberine were observed between Africans and Chinese, which is partly attributable to variations in gut microbiota and its corresponding metabolic capacity.
Lian-Wen Qi is the professor in pharmacognosy at the State Key Laboratory of Natural Medicines, China Pharmaceutical University. Dr. Qi received his Ph.D. degree in pharmacognosy at China Pharmaceutical University in 2009. He continued his education as a postdoctoral scholar at the Tang Center for Herbal Medicine Research at the University of Chicago from 2009 to 2011. Dr. Qi received the National Excellent Doctoral Dissertation Award in 2011. As a main contribution member, the applicant was awarded the First Prize of Natural Science Award of Ministry of Education of China in 2013 (ranked the second contribution order) and the Second Prize of National and Technology Progress Award of China in 2009 (ranked the fourth contribution order). He was selected as a scholar in the Program for Ten Thousand Talents in 2014, and National Excellent Young Scientists in 2012. His research interests include analysis and quality control of Chinese herbal medicines, metabolomics characterization for discovery of diagnostic markers. Dr. Qi has published 120 peer-reviewed articles in lead journals like Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Natural Product Reports, Track-Trends in Analytical Chemistry, and Journal of Chromatography A.
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Illustration: Barberry (seed), where Berberine can be found. Credit: Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz, Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé (1885 - 1905)