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Brain Res. 2008 Sep 10;1229:125-36. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2008.07.020. Epub 2008 Jul 12.

Responses of opioid and serotonin containing medullary raphe neurons to electroacupuncture.

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Susan-Samueli Center for integrative Medicine, Department of Medicine, School of Medicine, University of California, Irvine, CA 92697, USA.


The midline medulla oblongata, which includes the nucleus raphe obscurus, raphe magnus and raphe pallidus (NRP), is involved in regulation of cardiovascular responses. Opioids and serotonin (5-HT) are thought to function as important neurotransmitters in this region. We previously have demonstrated that electroacupuncture (EA) at the Neiguan-Jianshi acupoints (P5-P6, overlying the median nerves) attenuates sympathoexcitatory blood pressure reflexes through its influence on several brain regions. However, the role of these three raphe nuclei in the acupuncture responses is unknown. In baroreceptor denervated and vagotomized cats, the present study evaluated c-Fos activation in the raphe nuclei induced by EA and examined its relationship to enkephalin and 5-HT. To enhance detection of perikarya containing enkephalin, colchicine (90-100 microg/kg) was administered into the subarachnoid space in anesthetized cats 28-30 h before the placement of acupuncture needles at P5-P6 acupoints with or without electrical stimulation for 30 min. Perikarya containing the opioid and 5-HT were found in the raphe nuclei of all animals following application of colchicine. Compared to controls without electrical stimulation (n=5), c-Fos immunoreactivity and neurons double-labeled with c-Fos and either enkephalin or 5-HT were found more frequently in all three midline medullary nuclei, especially in NRP (n=6, all P<0.05) of EA-treated cats. Moreover, neurons triple-labeled with c-Fos, enkephalin and 5-HT were noted frequently in the NRP following EA stimulation. These results suggest that the medullary raphe nuclei, particularly the NRP, process somatic signals during EA and participate in EA-related modulation of cardiovascular function through an opioid or serotonergic mechanism.

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