Adenosine A1 receptors mediate local anti-nociceptive effects of acupuncture

Nat Neurosci. 2010 Jul;13(7):883-8. doi: 10.1038/nn.2562. Epub 2010 May 30.


Acupuncture is an invasive procedure commonly used to relieve pain. Acupuncture is practiced worldwide, despite difficulties in reconciling its principles with evidence-based medicine. We found that adenosine, a neuromodulator with anti-nociceptive properties, was released during acupuncture in mice and that its anti-nociceptive actions required adenosine A1 receptor expression. Direct injection of an adenosine A1 receptor agonist replicated the analgesic effect of acupuncture. Inhibition of enzymes involved in adenosine degradation potentiated the acupuncture-elicited increase in adenosine, as well as its anti-nociceptive effect. These observations indicate that adenosine mediates the effects of acupuncture and that interfering with adenosine metabolism may prolong the clinical benefit of acupuncture.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Analgesia*
  • Adenosine / metabolism*
  • Afferent Pathways / metabolism*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Mice
  • Nucleotidases / metabolism
  • Pain / complications
  • Pain / metabolism*
  • Pain Management
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / complications
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / metabolism*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / therapy
  • Receptors, Purinergic P1 / metabolism*
  • Sciatica / complications
  • Sciatica / metabolism
  • Sciatica / therapy
  • Statistics, Nonparametric


  • Receptors, Purinergic P1
  • Nucleotidases
  • adenosine monophosphatase
  • Adenosine