Pharmacol Ther. 2020 Jan 27:107496. Epub 2020 Jan 27. PMID: 32001311
Berberine in the treatment of metabolism-related chronic diseases: A drug cloud (dCloud) effect to target multifactorial disorders.
Berberine (BBR) is a multi-target drug (MTD) that has proven effective in the treatment of metabolism-related chronic diseases (CDs). However, the mode of action (MOA) of BBR remains to be clarified. At a cellular level, the inhibitory effect of BBR on mitochondrial enzymes is probably responsible for many of its biological activities, including the activation of low-density lipoprotein receptor (LDLR), AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and insulin receptor (InsR); these biological activities contribute to ameliorate peripheral blood metabolic profiles, e.g. by reducing plasma lipids and glucose levels, thus improving signs and symptoms of metabolic disorders. In this perspective, BBR acts as a targeted therapy. However, it also exerts pleiotropic systemic activities on some root causes of CDs that include antioxidant / anti-inflammatory effects and modifications of gut microbiota composition and metabolism, which may also contribute to its disease-modifying effects. After reviewing the different MOA of BBR, here we propose that BBR acts through a drug-cloud (dCloud) mechanism, as different to a drug-target effect. The dCloud here is defined as a group of terminal molecular events induced by the drug (or/and related metabolites), as well as the network connections among them. In this scenario, the therapeutic efficacy of BBR is the result of its dCloud effect acting on symptoms/signs as well as on root causes of the diseases. The dCloud concept is applicable to other established MTDs, such as aspirin, metformin, statins as well as to nutrient starvation, thus providing a novel instrument for the design of effective therapies against multifactorial metabolism-related CDs.