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Electroacupuncture restores spatial learning and downregulates phosphorylated N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors in a mouse model of Parkinson's disease

Abstract

Objective Parkinson's disease (PD) is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system. PD can be classified as idiopathic, acquired or hereditary and may be caused by various factors such as oxidative stress, loss of mitochondrial function, neuronal excitotoxicity or calcium imbalance.

Methods We hypothesised that electroacupuncture (EA) at KI3 would reduce neuronal excitotoxicity by regulating N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor function and may represent a novel therapeutic approach for PD.

Results Our results showed that deficits in spatial learning (reflected by the escape latency time in the Morris water maze task) and long-term potentiation (LTP) caused by systemic 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) administration (that damages dopaminergic neurons) could be rescued by EA on day 3. In PD mice, phosphorylated NMDA receptor subunits NR1 and NR2B were elevated (134.03±10.17% and 123.46±3.47% of baseline levels, respectively) but total NR1 and NR2B was unaffected (101.37±3.87% and 102.61±4.22% of baseline, respectively). Elevated levels of pNR1 and pNR2B, and phosphorylated forms of protein kinase A, protein kinase C, α Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase extracellular signal-regulated kinases (pERK), and cAMP response element-binding protein were also reduced following EA.

Conclusions These novel findings suggest that EA can rescue learning and LTP deficits in a rodent model of PD. The results point to a possible role for EA-based approaches in the clinical treatment of learning deficits associated with PD.

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