Regulation of the endoplasmic reticulum stress response and neuroprotective effects of acupuncture on brain injury caused by heroin addiction

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Abstract

Objectives

To evaluate regulation of the endoplasmic reticulum stress (ERS) response by acupuncture and to investigate its neuroprotective effect on brain injury caused by heroin addiction.

Methods

A total of 48 male Sprague-Dawley rats were randomly divided into a healthy control group (Control), an untreated heroin exposed group (Heroin) and a heroin exposed group receiving electroacupuncture (EA) treatment at GV14 and GV20 (Heroin+acupuncture) with n=16 rats per group. A rat model of heroin addiction was established by intramuscular injection of incremental doses of heroin for 8 consecutive days. A rat model of heroin relapse was established according to the exposure (addiction) → detoxification method. Apoptotic changes in nerve cells in the hippocampus and ventral tegmental area (VTA) were evaluated in each group of rats using terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick end labelling (TUNEL) assay. PERK, eIF2a, CHOP, IRE1 and JNK gene expression and protein expression were measured using quantitative real-time PCR (RT-qPCR) assay and immunohistochemical assay, respectively.

Results

The total number of positive nerve cells in the hippocampus and VTA was significantly lower in the Heroin+acupuncture group than in the Heroin group (p<0.01). Compared with the Heroin group, mRNA and protein expression of PERK, eIF2a, CHOP, IRE1 and JNK in the hippocampus and VTA were significantly downregulated in the Heroin+acupuncture group (p<0.05).

Conclusion

The acupuncture-regulated ERS response appears to mediate the neuroprotective effect of acupuncture in heroin-addicted rats with brain injury. Inhibition of CHOP and JNK upregulation and reduction of nerve cell apoptosis may be the main mechanisms underlying the effects of acupuncture on heroin addiction-induced brain injury.

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