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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Abstract

BACKGROUND:

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.

METHODS:

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.

RESULTS:

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.

CONCLUSIONS:

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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