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J Physiol Sci. 2012 Jul;62(4):351-7. doi: 10.1007/s12576-012-0211-1. Epub 2012 May 25.

Acupuncture stimulation at HT7 alleviates depression-induced behavioral changes via regulation of the serotonin system in the prefrontal cortex of maternally-separated rat pups.

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Division of Meridian and Structural Medicine, School of Korean Medicine, Pusan National University, Mulgeum-eup, Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do 626-870, Republic of Korea.


A possible application of acupuncture in alleviating depression-like behavioral changes and regulating serotonin signaling in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) of maternally-separated rat pups was investigated in this study. On postnatal day 15, rat pups were maternally-separated and received acupuncture stimulation at acupoint HT7 or ST36 once a day for 7 days. On postnatal day 21, the tail suspension test was performed and the PFC was harvested. Tissue levels of serotonin (5-HT) and 5-hydroxyindole-3-acetic acid (5-HIAA) were then measured by high-performance liquid chromatography and expression of serotonin transporter (5-HTT) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) were assessed by western blotting. Levels of 5-HT and 5-HIAA were not significantly changed, but the 5-HIAA/5-HT ratio was significantly increased by maternal separation. The immobility time of maternally-separated rat pups was increased, and increased 5-HTT expression and reduced BDNF level were observed in the PFC. But acupuncture stimulation at HT7 alleviated the behavioral change and regulated the changes of 5-HIAA/5-HT ratio, 5-HTT, and BDNF. In conclusion, acupuncture stimulation at HT7 can relieve maternal separation-induced changes, and we propose that regulation of the 5-HIAA/5-HT ratio and of 5-HTT expression by acupuncture stimulation are important acupuncture-induced benefits in this animal model of depression.

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