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BMC Complement Altern Med. 2016 Sep 29;16(1):380.

Antidepressant-like effects of acupuncture involved the ERK signaling pathway in rats.

Author information

1
Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, Beijing, Beijing, 100029, China.
2
Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, Beijing, Beijing, 100029, China. tuyab_tcm@163.com.
3
Shanxi University of Chinese Medicine, Xianyang, Shanxi, 712046, China.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

The extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) signaling pathway is considered to be associated with the pathogenesis and treatment of depression. Acupuncture has been demonstrated to ameliorate depression-related behavior and promote neurogenesis. In this study, we explored the role of the ERK signaling pathway in the antidepressant-like effects of acupuncture in rats exposed to chronic unpredictable mild stress (CUMS).

METHODS:

Eighty male Sprague-Dawley rats were randomly divided into eight groups: control group, model group, model + Acupuncture group (Acu group), model + fluoxetine group (FLX group), model + DMSO group (DMSO group), model + PD98059 group (PD group), model + Acupuncture + PD98059 group (Acu + PD group) and model + fluoxetine + PD98059 group (FLX + PD group). Except for the control group, all rats were subjected to 3 weeks of CUMS protocols to induce depression. Acupuncture was carried out for 10 min at acupoints of Baihui (GV-20) and Yintang (GV-29) each day during the experimental procedure. The ERK signaling pathway was inhibited using PD98059 through intracerebroventricular injection. The depression-like behaviors were evaluated using the sucrose intake and open-field tests. The protein levels of ERK1/2, phosphor (p)-ERK1/2, cAMP response element-binding protein (CREB), p-CREB and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the hippocampus were examined using western blot.

RESULTS:

Acupuncture ameliorated the depression-like behaviors and dysfunction of the ERK signaling pathway in the hippocampus of CUMS rats. PD98059 pretreatment inhibited the improvements brought about by acupuncture on the ERK signaling pathway.

CONCLUSIONS:

Taken together, our results indicated that acupuncture had a significant antidepressant-like effect on CUMS-induced depression model rats, and the ERK signaling pathway was implicated in this effect.

KEYWORDS:

Acupuncture; Chronic unpredictable mild stress (CUMS); Depression; Extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK); Neurogenesis

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