Transcutaneous auricular vagus nerve stimulation protects endotoxemic rat from lipopolysaccharide-induced inflammation

Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:627023. doi: 10.1155/2012/627023. Epub 2012 Dec 29.


Background. Transcutaneous auricular vagus nerve stimulation (ta-VNS) could evoke parasympathetic activities via activating the brainstem autonomic nuclei, similar to the effects that are produced after vagus nerve stimulation (VNS). VNS modulates immune function through activating the cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway. Methods. VNS, ta-VNS, or transcutaneous electrical acupoint stimulation (TEAS) on ST36 was performed to modulate the inflammatory response. The concentration of serum proinflammatory cytokines and tissue NF-kappa B p65 (NF-κB p65) were detected in endotoxaemia affected anesthetized rats. Results. Similar to the effect of VNS, ta-VNS suppressed the serum proinflammatory cytokines levels, such as tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α), interleukin-1 beta (IL-1β), and interleukin-6 (IL-6) as well as NF-kappa B p65 expressions of lung tissues. ST36 stimulation also decreases LPS-induced high TNF-α level and NF-κB signal, but it did not restrain proinflammatory cytokine IL-1β and IL-6. Neither ta-VNS nor ST36 stimulation could suppress LPS-induced TNF-α and NF-κB after vagotomy or with α7nAChR antagonist injection. Conclusions. The present paper demonstrated that ta-VNS could be utilized to suppress LPS-induced inflammatory responses via α7nAChR-mediated cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway.