Objective To explore the effects of electroacupuncture (EA) on the phosphorylated extracellular signal regulated kinase (p-ERK) pathway of the cerebral cortex in a rat model of focal cerebral ischaemia/reperfusion (I/R).
Methods 160 adult Sprague-Dawley rats underwent middle carotid artery occlusion (MCAO) to establish I/R injury and were randomly divided into four groups (n=40 each) that remained untreated (I/R group) or received EA at LU5, LI4, ST36 and SP6 (I/R+EA group), the ERK inhibitor PD98059 (I/R+PD group), or both interventions (I/R+PD+EA groups). An additional 40 rats undergoing sham surgery formed a healthy control group. Eight rats from each group were sacrificed at the following time points: 2 hours, 6 hours, 1 day, 3 days and 1 week. Neurological function was assessed using neurological deficit scores, morphological examination was performed following haematoxylin-eosin staining of cortical tissues, and apoptotic indices were calculated after terminal deoxyribonucleotidyl transferase (TdT)-mediated biotin-16-dUTP nick-end labelling. Cortical protein and mRNA expression of p-ERK and ERK were measured by immunohistochemistry and real-time quantitative PCR, respectively.
Results Compared with the I/R group, neurological deficit scores and apoptotic indices were lower in the I/R+EA group at 1 and 3 days, whereas mRNA/protein expression of ERK/p-ERK was higher in the EA group at all time points studied.
Conclusion Our results suggest that EA can alleviate neurological deficits and reduce cortical apoptosis in rats with I/R injury. These anti-apoptotic effects may be due to upregulation of p-ERK. Moreover, apoptosis appeared to peak at 1 day after I/R injury, which might therefore represent the optimal time point for targeting of EA.
- cerebral ischemia-reperfusion
- extracellular signal regulated kinase (ERK)
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Contributors GZ obtained funding and participated in study conceptualisation and design and manuscript preparation. XX and XZ purchased the animals and material instruments. LY, ZZ and CL analysed the data. CW wrote the manuscript. JC performed the acupuncture intervention. GJ and QL ensured the integrity of the data. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript accepted for publication.
Funding This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant no. 81173355).
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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