Acupuncture: a novel hypothesis for the involvement of purinergic signalling

Med Hypotheses. 2009 Oct;73(4):470-2. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2009.05.031. Epub 2009 Jul 22.


The hypothesis is summarised schematically in Fig. 1. It is proposed that mechanical deformation of the skin by needles and application of heat or electrical current leads to release of large amounts of ATP from keratinocytes, fibroblasts and other cells in skin; the ATP then occupies specific receptor subtypes expressed on sensory nerve endings in the skin and tongue; the sensory nerves send impulses through ganglia to the spinal cord, the brain stem, hypothalamus and higher centres; the brain stem and hypothalamus contain neurons that control autonomic functions, including cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, respiratory, urinogenital and musculo-skeletal activity. Impulses generated in sensory fibres in the skin connect with interneurons to modulate (either inhibition or facilitation) the activities of the motoneurons in the brain stem and hypothalamus to change autonomic functions; specifically activated sensory nerves, via interneurons, also inhibit the neural pathways to the pain centres in the cortex.

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy*
  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiopathology
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Pain / prevention & control*
  • Receptors, Purinergic / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction*


  • Receptors, Purinergic
  • Adenosine Triphosphate