Objectives To evaluate regulation of the endoplasmic reticulum stress (ERS) response by acupuncture and to investigate its neuroprotective effect on brain injury caused by heroin addiction.
Methods A total of 48 male Sprague-Dawley rats were randomly divided into a healthy control group (Control), an untreated heroin exposed group (Heroin) and a heroin exposed group receiving electroacupuncture (EA) treatment at GV14 and GV20 (Heroin+acupuncture) with n=16 rats per group. A rat model of heroin addiction was established by intramuscular injection of incremental doses of heroin for 8 consecutive days. A rat model of heroin relapse was established according to the exposure (addiction) → detoxification method. Apoptotic changes in nerve cells in the hippocampus and ventral tegmental area (VTA) were evaluated in each group of rats using terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick end labelling (TUNEL) assay. PERK, eIF2a, CHOP, IRE1 and JNK gene expression and protein expression were measured using quantitative real-time PCR (RT-qPCR) assay and immunohistochemical assay, respectively.
Results The total number of positive nerve cells in the hippocampus and VTA was significantly lower in the Heroin+acupuncture group than in the Heroin group (p<0.01). Compared with the Heroin group, mRNA and protein expression of PERK, eIF2a, CHOP, IRE1 and JNK in the hippocampus and VTA were significantly downregulated in the Heroin+acupuncture group (p<0.05).
Conclusion The acupuncture-regulated ERS response appears to mediate the neuroprotective effect of acupuncture in heroin-addicted rats with brain injury. Inhibition of CHOP and JNK upregulation and reduction of nerve cell apoptosis may be the main mechanisms underlying the effects of acupuncture on heroin addiction-induced brain injury.
- BASIC SCIENCES
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Contributors YZ, XC and YZ designed the study. YG, XC and XS performed most of the experiments. YZ and JC analyzed the data and wrote the paper. YG, JC, SW, LZ and RZ performed some of the experiments. All the authors revised the paper and approved the final version accepted for publication.
Funding This research was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant no. 81173325), the National Natural Science Foundation of Youth Fund project (grant no. 81503658), the Key projects of nature science fund in Universities of Anhui Province (grant no. KJ2016A413) and the Construction project of scientific research platform in Universities of Anhui Province (grant no. 2015TD033).
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent Animal studies.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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