American journal of physiology. Regulatory, integrative and comparative physiology

Electroacupuncture with high frequency at acupoint ST-36 induces regeneration of lost enteric neurons in diabetic rats via GDNF and PI3K/AKT signal pathway.

PMID 25972459


Background electroacupuncture (EA) at acupoint ST-36 (Zusanli) has been used to alleviate gastrointestinal symptoms and improve gastrointestinal motility, but the effects and mechanisms of EA on enteric nervous system (ENS) have scarcely been investigated. SD rats were randomly divided into eight groups: normal control group, diabetes mellitus group (DM), chronic high-frequency EA (C-HEA), chronic low-frequency EA (C-LEA), chronic sham stimulation group (C-SEA), acute high-frequency EA group (A-HEA), acute low-frequency EA group (A-LEA), and diabetic with acute sham stimulation group (A-SEA). The parameters of HEA included a frequency of 100 Hz and an amplitude of 1 mA, while the parameters for LEA were 10 Hz and 1 mA. The expressions of PGP9.5, neuronal nitric oxide synthase neurons, CHAT neurons, glia cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) and p-Akt were measured by immunofluorescence or immunohistochemistry, real-time PCR, and Western blotting methods in colon tissues of each rat. The total neurons and the two types of enteric neurons (neuronal nitric oxide synthase and choline acetyl transferase neurons), together with GDNF and p-Akt in the mRNA and protein level were significantly decreased in DM group compared with the normal control group in colon (P < 0.01). Compared with DM or all other DM with EA groups, the chronic HEA could induce a more significant quantitative increase in the mRNA and protein level of the enteric neurons and GDNF and p-Akt in colon (P < 0.01). EA with high-frequency and long-term stimuli at acupoint ST-36 can induce regeneration of lost enteric neurons in diabetic rats, and GDNF and PI3K/Akt signal pathway may play an important role in EA-induced regeneration of impaired enteric neurons.