, Volume 62, Issue 3, pp 576–587 | Cite as

Berberine promotes glucose uptake and inhibits gluconeogenesis by inhibiting deacetylase SIRT3

  • Bingjie Zhang
  • Yida Pan
  • Lei Xu
  • Dehua Tang
  • Robert Gregory Dorfman
  • Qian Zhou
  • Yuyao Yin
  • Yang Li
  • Lixing Zhou
  • Shimin Zhao
  • Xiaoping Zou
  • Lei WangEmail author
  • Mingming ZhangEmail author
Original Article



Many studies have confirmed the glucose-lowering effect of berberine in type 2 diabetes patients. Although the mechanism of action of berberine involves the improvement of insulin sensitivity, its hypoglycemic mechanism remains elusive. Here we show a new mechanism by which berberine antagonizes glucagon signaling and find that SIRT3 is involved in the hypoglycemic effect of berberine.


Gene knockout and overexpression were used to assess the inhibitory effect of berberine on SIRT3. Downstream signaling pathways and the hypoglycemic effect of SIRT3 were evaluated by immunoblotting and metabolic monitoring.


We found that berberine led to mitochondrial dysfunction and AMP accumulation by inhibiting deacetylase SIRT3. We confirmed that AMP accumulation activated the AMPK signaling pathway and further promoted glucose uptake. Simultaneously, AMP accumulation reduced cyclic AMP (cAMP) levels and abrogated the phosphorylation of critical protein targets of protein kinase A (PKA). Furthermore, we found that phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase 1 (PEPCK1) is a key gluconeogenesis enzyme that can be stabilized by glucagon. Berberine caused significant PEPCK1 ubiquitination and degradation by antagonizing glucagon and was accompanied by high levels of PEPCK1 acetylation. Interestingly, berberine-induced glucagon inhibition is independent of AMPK activation. The in vivo data from sirt3 knockout mice were further confirmed by the in vitro experiments.


Berberine promotes glucose uptake and inhibits gluconeogenesis by inhibiting SIRT3, and regulating mitochondria-related pathways may provide a novel approach to the development of antidiabetic drugs.


Berberine PEPCK1 AMP Glucose SIRT3 



We thank the Zhao lab for offering their help.


This work was supported by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 81602076, 81672935 and 81472756), Outstanding Youth Project of Nanjing City (No. JQX17002), the Jiangsu Clinical Medical Center of Digestive Disease (BL2012001), the Natural Science Foundation from the Department of Science & Technology of Jiangsu Province (BK20160113), the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (No. 021414380244), the Foundation of Jiangsu Provincial Commission of Health and Family Planning (Q201611).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.

Supplementary material

12020_2018_1689_MOESM1_ESM.doc (549 kb)
Supplementary Information


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bingjie Zhang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yida Pan
    • 3
  • Lei Xu
    • 1
  • Dehua Tang
    • 1
  • Robert Gregory Dorfman
    • 4
  • Qian Zhou
    • 5
  • Yuyao Yin
    • 1
  • Yang Li
    • 1
  • Lixing Zhou
    • 1
  • Shimin Zhao
    • 5
    • 6
  • Xiaoping Zou
    • 1
  • Lei Wang
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mingming Zhang
    • 1
    • 5
    • 6
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Gastroenterology, Drum Tower hospital affiliated to Nanjing University Medical SchoolNanjing UniversityNanjingChina
  2. 2.Department of Endocrinology, Drum Tower hospital affiliated to Nanjing University Medical SchoolNanjing UniversityNanjingChina
  3. 3.Department of Digestive Diseases of Huashan HospitalFudan UniversityShanghaiChina
  4. 4.Northwestern University Feinberg School of MedicineChicagoUSA
  5. 5.School of Life SciencesFudan UniversityShanghaiChina
  6. 6.Key laboratory of Reproduction Regulation of NPFPC (SIPPR, IRD)Fudan UniversityShanghaiChina

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