Electrically stimulated acupuncture increases renal blood flow through exosome-carried miR-181

Am J Physiol Renal Physiol. 2018 Dec 1;315(6):F1542-F1549. doi: 10.1152/ajprenal.00259.2018. Epub 2018 Aug 22.


Acupuncture with low-frequency electrical stimulation (Acu/LFES) can prevent muscle atrophy by increasing muscle protein anabolism in mouse models of chronic kidney disease. During the treatment of muscle wasting, we found that Acu/LFES on the gastrocnemius muscle of the leg enhances renal blood flow. We also found that Acu/LFES increases exosome abundance and alters exosome-associated microRNA expression in the circulation. When exosome secretion was blocked using GW4869, the Acu/LFES-induced increase in renal blood flow was limited. This provided evidence that the increased renal blood flow is exosome mediated. To identify how exosomes regulate renal blood flow, we performed microRNA deep sequencing in exosomes isolated from treated and untreated mouse serum and found that the 34 microRNAs are altered by Acu/LFES. In particular, miR-181d-5p is increased in the serum exosome of Acu/LFES-treated mice. In silico searching suggested that miR-181d-5p could target angiotensinogen. Using a luciferase reporter assay, we demonstrated that miR-181 directly inhibits angiotensinogen. When Acu/LFES-treated muscle was excised and incubated in culture medium, we found that the amount of exosomes and miR-181d-5p was increased in the medium providing evidence that Acu/LFES can increase miR-181 secretion. We conclude that Acu/LFES on leg hindlimb increases miR-181 in serum exosome leading to increased renal blood flow. This study provides important new insights about the mechanism(s) by which acupuncture may regulation of muscle-organ cross talk through exosome-derived microRNA.

Keywords: Acu/LFES; angiotensinogen; exosome; microRNA; renal blood flow.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy*
  • Angiotensinogen / genetics
  • Angiotensinogen / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Blood Flow Velocity
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy*
  • Exosomes / metabolism*
  • Hindlimb
  • Kidney / blood supply*
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • MicroRNAs / blood*
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Muscular Atrophy / blood
  • Muscular Atrophy / genetics
  • Muscular Atrophy / physiopathology
  • Muscular Atrophy / therapy*
  • Renal Circulation*
  • Tissue Culture Techniques


  • MicroRNAs
  • mirn181 microRNA, mouse
  • Angiotensinogen