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Contribution of GABAergic modulation in DRGs to electroacupuncture analgesia in incisional neck pain rats

Authors Qiao LN, Yang YS, Liu JL, Zhu J, Tan LH, Shi YN, Zhu B, Rong PJ

Received 1 August 2018

Accepted for publication 27 November 2018

Published 17 January 2019 Volume 2019:12 Pages 405—416

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/JPR.S180165

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Colin Mak

Peer reviewer comments 4

Editor who approved publication: Dr Katherine Hanlon


Li Na Qiao,1,2 Yong Sheng Yang,2 Jun Ling Liu,2 Jiang Zhu,1 Lian Hong Tan,2 Yi Nan Shi,2 Bing Zhu,2 Pei Jing Rong2

1School of Acupuncture-Moxibustion and Tuina, Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, Beijing, China; 2Institute of Acupuncture and Moxibustion, China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, Beijing, China

Purpose: Acupuncture therapy is effective for relieving postoperative pain. Our previous study showed that electroacupuncture (EA) at Futu (LI18) and Hegu (LI4)–Neiguan (PC6) could alleviate incisional neck pain, which was related with its effect in upregulating γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) expression in cervical (C3–6) dorsal root ganglions (DRGs); but whether its receptor subsets GABAAA2R and GABABR1 in C3–6 DRGs are involved in EA analgesia or not, it remains unknown.
Materials and methods: Seventy-five male Sprague Dawley rats were randomized to normal control, model, LI18, LI4–PC6, and Zusanli (ST36)–Yanglingquan (GB34) groups. The incisional neck pain model was established by making a longitudinal incision along the midline of the rats’ neck, followed by repeated mechanical stimulation. EA was applied to bilateral LI18, LI4–PC6, or ST36–GB34 for 30 minutes at 4, 24, and 48 hours after operation. The thermal pain threshold of the neck was detected by a tail-flick unit, and the C3–6 DRGs were removed for assaying the immunoactivity of substance P (SP), GABAAα2R, glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP; a marker of satellite glial cells [SGCs]), and GABABR1 and the expression of GABAAα2R and GABABR1 mRNA and proteins using immunofluorescence, real-time PCR, and Western blotting, respectively.
Results: The cervical thermal pain threshold was significantly lower in the model group than the normal group (P<0.001), indicating hyperalgesia after neck incision, and was considerably increased in both EA-LI18 and LI4–PC6 groups (P<0.001), but not in ST36–GB34 group compared with model group (P>0.05). Immunofluorescence staining showed that GABAAα2R R expressed on SP+ neurons, and GABABR1 on SGCs. EA of LI18 and LI4–PC6 markedly suppressed the modeling-induced upregulation of the immunoactivity of SP (P<0.001 and P<0.01, respectively) and GFAP (P<0.01 and P<0.001, respectively) and significantly reversed neck incision–induced downregulation of the expression of GABAAα2R and GABABR1 mRNAs and proteins (P<0.05).
Conclusion: EA of LI18 and LI4–PC6 has an analgesic effect in incisional neck pain rats, which is related to its effects in upregulating GABAergic inhibitory modulation on nociceptive peptidergic neurons and SGCs in cervical DRGs.

Keywords: electroacupuncture, incisional neck pain, substance P, satellite glial cells, GABAAα2R, GABABR1

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