Effects and mechanisms of acupuncture and moxibustion on reproductive endocrine function in male rats with partial androgen deficiency

Acupunct Med. 2016 Apr;34(2):136-43. doi: 10.1136/acupmed-2014-010734. Epub 2015 Oct 27.


Objectives: Partial androgen deficiency of the aging male (PADAM) is characterised by a deficiency in serum androgen levels. Both electroacupuncture (EA) and mild moxibustion (MM) can raise serum testosterone levels in PADAM. We investigated the mechanisms underlying the use of EA and MM in a rodent model of PADAM.

Methods: Fifty rats received cyclophosphamide injection over 5 consecutive days to induce PADAM, which was verified by comparing total testosterone (TT) and free testosterone (FT) levels with 10 non-PADAM healthy control rats (CON). Successful modelling was confirmed in 43 of 50 rats, 40 of which were randomly divided into untreated (PADAM), EA-treated (PADAM+EA), MM-treated (PADAM+MM), and androlin (AD)-treated (PADAM+AD) groups (n=10 each). EA and MM were administered at BL23 and CV4 acupuncture points for 8 weeks, and no treatment was given to rats in the PADAM and CON groups. Serum levels of luteinising hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), mRNA expression of cytochrome P450c17 (P450c17) and 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase 1 (3β-HSD1), and protein levels of cytochrome P450 side chain cleavage (P450scc), 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase 3 (17β-HSD3) and steroidogenic factor 1 (SF-1) were evaluated after 8 weeks.

Results: Both EA and mild MM significantly increased serum TT and FT levels with MM displaying superiority. P450scc, 17β-HSD3 and SF-1 protein expression, and P450c17 and 3β-HSD1 mRNA expression, were significantly increased and serum LH and FSH levels were significantly decreased in PADAM+EA and PADAM+MM relative to PADAM rats. Moreover, serum LH and FSH levels were significantly lower and 17β-HSD3 protein expression significantly higher in PADAM+MM relative to PADAM+EA rats.

Conclusions: EA and MM at the BL23 and CV4 acupuncture points appear to be effective treatments for PADAM, and MM displays superior efficacy to EA.


MeSH terms

  • 17-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases / genetics
  • 17-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases / metabolism
  • Acupuncture Therapy*
  • Aging / blood*
  • Aging / genetics
  • Androgens / blood
  • Androgens / deficiency*
  • Animals
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone / blood
  • Humans
  • Luteinizing Hormone / blood
  • Male
  • Moxibustion*
  • RNA Splicing Factors / genetics
  • RNA Splicing Factors / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Testosterone / blood


  • Androgens
  • RNA Splicing Factors
  • Sf1 protein, rat
  • Testosterone
  • Luteinizing Hormone
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone
  • 17-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases
  • 3 (or 17)-beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase