Acupuncture has been widely used for treating diseases since the ancient days in China, but the mechanism by which acupuncture exerts such powerful roles is unclear. Epigenetics, including DNA methylation, histone modification, and post-transcriptional regulation of miRNAs, is the study of heritable changes in gene expression that do not include DNA sequence alterations. Epigenetics has become a new strategy for the basic and clinical research of acupuncture in the last decade. Some investigators have been trying to illustrate the mechanism of acupuncture from an epigenetics perspective, which has shed new lights on the mechanisms and applications of acupuncture. Moreover, the introduction of epigenetics into the regulatory mechanism in acupuncture treatment has provided more objective and scientific support for acupuncture theories and brought new opportunities for the improvement of acupuncture studies. In this paper, we reviewed the literatures that has demonstrated that acupuncture could directly or indirectly affect epigenetics, in order to highlight the progress of acupuncture studies correlated to epigenetic regulations. We do have to disclose that the current evidence in this review is not enough to cover all the complex interactions between multiple epigenetic modifications and their regulations. However, the up-to-date results can help us to better understand acupuncture's clinical applications and laboratory research.
Keywords: DNA methylation; acupuncture; chromatin remodeling; histone modification; miRNA.