The effect of genotype on sensitivity to electroacupuncture analgesia

Pain. 2001 Mar;91(1-2):5-13. doi: 10.1016/s0304-3959(00)00416-4.


Individual differences in sensitivity to pain and analgesia are well appreciated, and increasing evidence has pointed towards a role of inherited genetic factors in explaining some proportion of such variability. It has long been known by practitioners of acupuncture, an ancient modality of analgesia, that some patients are 'responders' and others 'non-responders.' The present research was aimed at defining the inherited genetic influence on acupuncture analgesia in the mouse, using 10 common inbred strains. Two pairs of metallic needles were inserted into acupoints ST 36 and SP 6, fixed in situ and then connected to the output channel of an electric pulse generator. Electroacupuncture (EA) parameters were set as constant current output (intensity: 1.0-1.5-2.0 mA, 10 min each; frequency: 2 or 100 Hz) with alteration of a positive and negative square wave, 0.3 ms in pulse width. Tail-flick latencies evoked by radiant heat were measured before, during and after EA stimulation. Narrow-sense heritability estimates of 2 and 100 Hz EA were 0.37 and 0.16, respectively. We found that the C57BL/10 strain was the most sensitive, and the SM strain was the least sensitive to both 2 and 100 Hz EA. However, the relative sensitivities of other strains to these two EA frequencies suggested some genetic dissociation between them as well. These results demonstrate a role of inherited genetic factors in EA sensitivity in the mouse, although the low-to-moderate heritability estimates suggest that environmental factors may be of greater importance in predicting who will benefit from this analgesic modality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Analgesia*
  • Animals
  • Electroacupuncture*
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Male
  • Mice / genetics*
  • Mice / physiology
  • Mice, Inbred Strains / genetics
  • Mice, Inbred Strains / physiology
  • Nociceptors / physiology
  • Pain Threshold / physiology
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Species Specificity