The gut-brain axis: Effect of electroacupuncture pretreatment on learning, memory, and JNK signaling in D-galactose-induced AD-like rats

Document Type : Original Article


1 College of Acupuncture and Orthopedics, Hubei University of Chinese Medicine, Wuhan, Hubei, China

2 Hubei Provincial Collaborative Innovation Center of Preventive Treatment by Acupuncture and Moxibustion, Hubei University of Chinese Medicine, Wuhan, Hubei, China

3 Medical Department,Wuhan Red Cross Hospital, Wuhan, Hubei, China

4 School of Acupuncture-Moxibustion and Tuina, Hebei University of Chinese Medicine, Shijiazhuang, Hebei, China


Objective(s): To examine the effect and potential mechanism of electroacupuncture (EA) pretreatment in spatial learning, memory, gut microbiota, and JNK signaling in D-galactose-induced AD-like rats. 
Materials and Methods: The AD-like rat model was generated by intraperitoneal injection of D-galactose. Morris water maze was used to determine spatial learning and memory ability, Real-time PCR to determine intestinal flora levels, ELISA to determine tryptophan (Trp) and 5-HT levels in the colon and hippocampal tissues, immunofluorescence to determine 5-HT levels in enterochromaffin cells (ECs), and immunoblotting to determine JNK signaling protein levels in hippocampal tissues.
Results: Electroacupuncture pretreatment significantly reduced escape latency and prolonged exploration time in the target quadrant, and significantly increased the relative DNA abundance of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Meanwhile, electroacupuncture pretreatment also reduced colonic 5-HT levels and increased hippocampal 5-HT levels. Moreover, electroacupuncture pretreatment significantly inhibited hippocampal JNK pathway-related protein expression, including 5-HT6R, JNK, p-JUNK, c-JUN, and p-c-Jun. And the combination of GV20 and ST36 was more effective than single acupoints.
Conclusion: Electroacupuncture pretreatment improved the learning and memory ability of D-galactose-induced AD-like model rats, changed the gut microbiota composition, and the mechanism may be related to the gut-brain axis and the JNK signaling pathway.   In addition, the combination of GV20 and ST36 could further enhance the efficacy.


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