Electroacupuncture has been shown to effectively reduce chronic pain in patients with nerve injury. The underlying mechanisms are not well understood. Accumulated evidence suggests that purinergic P2X3 receptors (P2X3Rs) in dorsal root ganglion neurons play a major role in mediating chronic pain associated with nerve injury. The aim of this study is to determine if electroacupuncture stimulation alters P2X3R activity in dorsal root ganglia to produce analgesia under neuropathic pain condition. Peripheral neuropathy was produced by ligation of the left lumbar 5 (L5) spinal nerve in rats. Low-frequency (2 Hz) electrical stimulation was applied to ipsilateral ST36 and BL60 acupoints in rats. The P2X3R agonist (α,β-meATP)-induced flinch responses were reduced after electroacupuncture treatment. Western analyses showed that P2X3R expression was upregulated in nerve-uninjured lumbar 4 (L4) dorsal root ganglion neurons ipsilateral to the spinal nerve ligation. Electroacupuncture-stimulation reversed the upregulation. In nerve-injured L5 dorsal root ganglia, P2X3R expression was substantially reduced. Electroacupuncture had no effect on the reduction. We also determined the injury state of P2X3R expressing dorsal root ganglion neurons using the neuronal injury marker, activating transcription factor 3 (ATF3). Immunohistochemical assay showed that in L4 dorsal root ganglia, almost all P2X3Rs were expressed in uninjured (ATF3-) neurons. Spinal nerve ligation increased the expression of P2X3Rs. Electroacupuncture reduced the increase in P2X3R expression without affecting the percentage of ATF + neurons. In ipsilateral L5 dorsal root ganglion neurons, spinal nerve ligation reduced the percentage of P2X3R + neurons and markedly increased the percentage of ATF3 + cells. Almost all of P2X3Rs were expressed in damaged (ATF3+) neurons. Electroacupuncture had no effect on spinal nerve ligation-induced changes in the percentage of P2X3R or percentage of ATF3 + cells in L5 dorsal root ganglia. These observations led us to conclude that electroacupuncture effectively reduces injury-induced chronic pain by selectively reducing the expression of P2X3Rs in nerve-uninjured L4 dorsal root ganglion neurons.
- activating transcription factor 3
- dorsal root ganglion
- spinal nerve ligation
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Medicine
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine