Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Acupuncture Stimulation via the Vagus Nerve

PLoS One. 2016 Mar 18;11(3):e0151882. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0151882. eCollection 2016.

Abstract

Although acupuncture therapy is widely used in traditional Asian medicine for the treatment of diverse internal organ disorders, its underlying biological mechanisms are largely unknown. Here, we investigated the functional involvement of acupuncture stimulation (AS) in the regulation of inflammatory responses. TNF-α production in mouse serum, which was induced by lipopolysaccharide (LPS) administration, was decreased by manual acupuncture (MAC) at the zusanli acupoint (stomach36, ST36). In the spleen, TNF-α mRNA and protein levels were also downregulated by MAC and were recovered by using a splenic neurectomy and a vagotomy. c-Fos, which was induced in the nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS) and dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus nerve (DMV) by LPS and electroacupuncture (EAC), was further increased by focal administration of the AMPA receptor blocker CNQX and the purinergic receptor antagonist PPADS. TNF-α levels in the spleen were decreased by CNQX and PPADS treatments, implying the involvement of inhibitory neuronal activity in the DVC. In unanesthetized animals, both MAC and EAC generated c-Fos induction in the DVC neurons. However, MAC, but not EAC, was effective in decreasing splenic TNF-α production. These results suggest that the therapeutic effects of acupuncture may be mediated through vagal modulation of inflammatory responses in internal organs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Points
  • Acupuncture Therapy*
  • Animals
  • Electroacupuncture
  • Inflammation / therapy*
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos / metabolism
  • Solitary Nucleus / metabolism
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism
  • Vagotomy
  • Vagus Nerve / physiology*

Substances

  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha

Grant support

This work was supported by grants from the Basic Science Research Programs through the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) funded by the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (2013056735) and by the Ministry of Education (2013011219), URL: www.nrf.re.kr. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.