Drugs and chemical reagents
Berberine, CCl4 Heparin, Phenobarbital and olive oil were obtained from Sigma (USA). ALT and AST test kits were purchased from Stanbio (USA). SOD assay kit was obtained from Dojindo Laboratories (Japan).
Male Sprague-Dawley rats aged 7 weeks weighing 230-270 g were obtained from the Laboratory Animal Centre of the University of Hong Kong. Animals were allowed to acclimate for two days; they were fed with standard pellet diet and water ad libitum at 20-25°C under a 12 hour light/dark cycle. Food was withdrawn one day before the experiment but water continued to be provided.
All animal handlings and experiment protocols complied with the guidelines of the Laboratory Animal Centre of the University of Hong Kong. Animals were processed (including drug treatment and sacrifice) in accordance with the international guidelines for laboratory animals.
CCl4-induced acute liver damage model
48 animals were divided into six groups, namely Group 1: control group, Group 2: CCl4 control group, Group 3: low dose treatment group (post-treated with berberine, 80 mg/kg), Group 4: medium dose treatment group (post-treated with berberine, 120 mg/kg), Group 5: high dose treatment group (post-treated with berberine, 160 mg/kg) and Group 6: preventive dose treatment group (pre-treated with berberine, 120 mg/kg). Each group contained eight animals. Rats from Groups 2 to 6 were intraperitoneally (ip) injected with CCl4 at a dose of 1.0 ml/kg as a 50% olive oil solution while Group 1 received 1.0 ml/kg of olive oil. Berberine was suspended in distilled water at concentrations of 80, 120 and 160 mg/kg which were orally administered through a stomach tube to rats in Groups 3 to 5 respectively after six hours of CCl4 treatment. Rats in Group 6 were orally administered with berberine (120 mg/kg) twice daily for two days before CCl4 treatment. The CCl4 control group (Group 2) was orally administered with distilled water of the equivalent volume.
Twenty-four (24) hours after CCl4 administration, the animals were anesthetized with ketamine/xylazine mixture (ketamine 67 mg/kg, xylazine 6 mg/kg, ip). Blood samples were collected by cardiac puncture, placed in heparinized tubes and centrifuged at 3000 × g (Eppendorf, Germany) for 10 minutes to obtain sera which were used to determine SOD and to test ALT and AST activities.
Immediately after blood collection, the animals were sacrificed by an overdose of pentobarbitone (Phenobarbital 200 mg/kg, ip). The liver of each rat was promptly removed and used to determine the tissue level SOD and for further histopathological study.
Serum ALT and AST analyses
ALT and AST activities in serum samples were measured with Stanbio kits and a UV-rate auto-analyzer (Hitachi 736-60, Japan).
Values of the serum ALT and AST activities were derived according to the 'absorptivity micromolar extinction coefficient' of NADH at 340 nm and were expressed in terms of unit per liter (U/L). One unit per liter was defined as the amount of enzyme required to oxidize one μmol/L of NADH per minute.
Measurement of serum SOD
Serum SOD was determined according to the technical manual of the SOD assay kit-WST (Dojindo Laboratories, Japan).
Briefly, the assay kit utilized the mitochondrial activity producing a water-soluble formazan dye upon reduction with the superoxide anion. The rate of the reduction with a superoxide anion was linearly related to the xanthine oxidase (XO) activity and was inhibited by SOD. Thus, the inhibition rate of XO activity determined by a colorimetric method was used to reflect the serum SOD levels in this study.
Liver samples were immediately collected and fixed in 10% buffered formaldehyde solution for a period of at least 24 hours before histopathological study. Samples were then embedded in paraffin wax with Automatic Tissue Processor (Lipshaw, USA) and five-micron sections were prepared with a Leica RM 2016 rotary microtome (Leica Instruments, China). These thin sections were stained with hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) and mounted on glass slides with Canada balsam (Sigma, USA). Degrees of liver damage were estimated as described before[4
] under a light microscope (Leica Microsystems Digital Imaging, Germany) and images were captured with a Leica DFC 280 CCD camera (Leica, Germany) at original magnification of 10 × 10. The grades of liver damage in different groups were assigned in numerical scores (scale from 0 to 6).
Data were presented as mean and standard deviation (SD). When one-way ANOVA showed significant differences among groups, Tukey's post hoc test was used to determine the specific pairs of groups that were statistically different. A level of P < 0.05 was considered statistically significant. Analysis was performed with the software SPSS version 16.0 (SPSS Inc, USA).