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PLoS One. 2014 Apr 10;9(4):e94604. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0094604. eCollection 2014.

Acupuncture promotes angiogenesis after myocardial ischemia through H3K9 acetylation regulation at VEGF gene.

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Key Laboratory of Acupuncture and Medicine Research of Ministry of Education, Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine, Nanjing, Jiangsu, China.
School of Information Technology, Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine, Nanjing, Jiangsu, China.
School of Acupuncture and Tuina, Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Chengdu, Sichuan, China.



Acupuncture exerts cardioprotective effects on several types of cardiac injuries, especially myocardial ischemia (MI), but the mechanisms have not yet been well elucidated. Angiogenesis mediated by VEGF gene expression and its modification through histone acetylation has been considered a target in treating myocardial ischemia. This study aims to exam whether modulation of angiogenesis through H3K9 acetylation regulation at VEGF gene is one possible cardioprotective mechanism of acupuncture.


We generated rat MI models by ligating the left anterior descending coronary artery and applied electroacupuncture (EA) treatment at the Neiguan (PC6) acupoint. Our results showed that acupuncture reversed the S-T segment change, reduced Q-wave area, decreased CK, CK-MB, LDH levels, mitigated myocardial remodeling, and promoted microvessel formation in the MI heart. RNA-seq analysis showed that VEGF-induced angiogenesis signaling was involved in the modulation of EA. Western blot results verified that the protein expressions of VEGF, Ras, phospho-p44/42 MAPK, phospho-p38 MAPK, phospho-SAPK/JNK and Akt, were all elevated significantly by EA treatment in the MI heart. Furthermore, increased H3K9 acetylation was also observed according with the VEGF. ChIP assay confirmed that EA treatment could notably stimulate the recruitment of H3K9ace at the VEGF promoter.


Our study demonstrates for the first time that acupuncture can effectively up-regulate VEGF expression through H3K9 acetylation modification directly at the VEGF promoter and hence activate VEGF-induced angiogenesis in rat MI models. We employed high throughput sequencing in this study and, for the first time, generated genome-wide gene expression profiles both in the rat MI model and in acupuncture treatment.

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