Role of Sigma-1 Receptor/p38 MAPK Inhibition in Acupoint Catgut Embedding–Mediated Analgesic Effects in Complete Freund’s Adjuvant-Induced Inflammatory Pain

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The endoplasmic reticulum chaperone protein Sigma-1 receptor (Sig-1 R) and mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) are involved in the mechanism of pain. Acupoint stimulation exerts an exact antihyperalgesic effect in inflammatory pain. However, whether Sig-1 R and MAPKs are associated with the acupoint stimulation-induced analgesic effects is not clear. This study investigated the analgesic effect of acupoint catgut embedding (ACE) and the inhibition of Sig-1 R and MAPKs in ACE analgesia.


Rats were prepared with intrathecal catheter implantation. ACE was applied to bilateral “Kunlun” (BL60), “Zusanli” (ST36), and “Sanyinjiao” (SP6) acupoints in the rat model of inflammatory pain (complete Freund’s adjuvant [CFA] intraplantar injection). Then, Sig-1R agonist PRE084 or saline was intrathecally given daily. The paw withdrawal thresholds and paw edema were measured before CFA injection and at 1, 3, and 5 day after CFA injection. Western bolt was used to evaluate the protein expression of spinal Sig-1R, p38MAPK, and extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK), and immunohistochemistry of Sig-1R was detected at 1, 3, and 5 days after CFA injection.


ACE exhibited specific analgesic effects. ACE increased paw withdrawal thresholds and markedly decreased CFA-induced paw edema at 1, 3, and 5 days. ACE downregulated the protein expression of Sig-1R, which was increased significantly at 1, 3, and 5 days after CFA injection. ACE decreased the expression of p38 MAPK and ERK at 1 and 3 days but not at 5 days. However, an injection of Sig-1R agonist PRE084 markedly reversed these alterations, except ERK expression.


The present study demonstrated that ACE exhibited antihyperalgesic effects via the inhibition of the Sig-1R that modulated p38 MAPK, but not ERK, expression in the CFA-induced inflammatory pain model in rats.

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