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Endocrinology. 2015 Oct;156(10):3649-60. doi: 10.1210/EN.2015-1018. Epub 2015 Jul 21.

Effects of Acupuncture, RU-486 on the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis in Chronically Stressed Adult Male Rats.

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School of Nursing and Health Studies (L.E.), Department of Pharmacology and Physiology (L.E., S.E.M., R.E.), Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, DC 20007; and School of Chinese Medicine (L.L.), The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong.


We have recently reported that pretreatment with electroacupuncture (EA) at stomach meridian point 36 (St36) prevents the chronic cold-stress increase in the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA), an action that may be under central control. Given that treatment for stress-related symptoms usually begins after onset of the stress responses, the objectives of the present study were to determine the efficacy of EA St36 on HPA hormones when EA St36 is given after stress was initiated, if the results are long lasting, and if blocking the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) using RU-486 had the same effects as EA St36. Adult male rats were placed in 4 groups of animals, 3 of which were exposed to cold and 1 of which was a nontreatment control group. After exposure to the cold stress, 2 groups were treated with either EA St36 or sham-EA, repeated over 10 days. The increase in ACTH and corticosterone observed in stress-only rats was prevented in EA St36 animals, and the effects remained intact 4 days after withdrawal of EA but continuation of cold stress. When the GR was blocked with RU-486, the efficacy of EA St36 remained unchanged. GR blockade did significantly elevate ACTH, which is not seen with EA St36, suggesting that EA St36 does act centrally. The elevated HPA hormones in stress-only rats were associated with a significant increase in depressive and anxious behavior; this was not observed in the stressed EA St36 animals. The results indicate that EA specifically at St36 vs sham-EA is effective in treating chronic poststress exposure.

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