Basic Research|Articles in Press

Chronic Electroacupuncture With High-Frequency at ST-36 Promotes Gastrointestinal Motility by Regulating Bone Morphogenetic Protein 2 Secretion of Muscularis Macrophages

  • Yingli Li
    Division of Gastroenterology, Wuhan Union Hospital, Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, Hubei Province, China
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  • Shuangning Song
    Division of Gastroenterology, Wuhan Union Hospital, Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, Hubei Province, China
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  • Jing An
    Division of Gastroenterology, Wuhan Union Hospital, Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, Hubei Province, China
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  • Shi Liu
    Address correspondence to: Shi Liu, PhD, Division of Gastroenterology, Wuhan Union Hospital, Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, 1277, Jiefang Rd, Wuhan, Hubei Province, China 430022.
    Division of Gastroenterology, Wuhan Union Hospital, Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, Hubei Province, China
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      Electroacupuncture (EA) at Zusanli (ST36) is an alternative treatment for several gastrointestinal motility disorders; however, the exact mechanism is unconfirmed. We aimed to show the potential effects of EA on muscularis macrophages (MMφ), the bone morphogenetic protein (BMP)/BMP receptor (BMPR)-Smad signal pathway, and enteric neurons in diabetic mice. This may provide fresh insight into ways EA affects gastrointestinal motility.

      Materials and Methods

      C57BL/6J healthy adult male mice were randomly divided into five groups: regular control group, diabetes group, diabetes with sham EA group (acupuncture only), diabetes with low-frequency EA group (10 Hz), diabetes with high-frequency EA group (HEA) (100 Hz). The stimulation lasted eight weeks. Gastrointestinal motility was assessed. We identified M2-like MMφ in the layer of colonic muscle by flow cytometry. Western Blot, real-time polymerase chain reaction, and immunofluorescent staining were also used to determine the MMφ, molecules in the BMP2/BMPR-Smad pathway, and PGP9.5, neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS) expression of enteric neurons in the colon of each group.


      1) HEA improved the gastrointestinal motility (gastrointestinal transit time, defecation frequency) of diabetic mice. 2) HEA reversed the decreased proportion of M2-like MMφ and expression of the CD206 in the colon of diabetic mice. 3) HEA restored the downregulations of BMP2, BMPR1b, and Smad1 in the BMP2/BMPR-Smad pathway and increased downstream enteric neurons marked by PGP9.5, nNOS in the colon of diabetes mice.


      HEA might promote gut dynamics by upregulating M2-like MMφ in the colon of diabetic mice, which in turn leads to the accumulation of molecules in the BMP2/BMPR-Smad signaling pathway and downstream enteric neurons.


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