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Acupuncture Induced Pain Suppression Opiod, Glutamate, Amino Butyric Acid, NaK Pump

Springer International Publishing AG Part of Springer Science + Business Media

Y. Xia et al. (eds.), Current Research in Acupuncture, 37

DOI 10.1007/978-1-4614-3357-6_2, © Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013


Chapter 2
Cellular Mechanisms in Acupuncture Points and Affected Sites

Wolfgang Schwarz and Quanbao Gu

W. Schwarz (*)

Laboratory of Cellular Electrophysiology , Shanghai Research Center for Acupuncture and Meridians , Shanghai 201203 , China

Institute for Biophysics , Goethe University Frankfurt am Main,
Max-von-Laue-Str. 1 , 60438 Frankfurt am Main , Germany


Q. Gu

Laboratory of Cellular Electrophysiology , Shanghai Research Center for Acupuncture and Meridians , Shanghai 201203 , China



The objective of our work is the elucidation of mechanisms underlying initiation, transmission and the fi nal effects of acupuncture and moxibustion. In this chapter, we shall focus mainly on possible cellular events in tissue affected by Chinese medicine treatments using basically electrophysiological techniques combined with molecular biological and radioactive tracer techniques to measure activity of transmembrane transport.

In the fi rst part we will review work of our laboratory suggesting that acupunctureinduced pain suppression involves interaction of d -opioid receptor (DOR) with the neurotransmitter transporters for glutamate (EAAC1), g -amino butyric acid (GAT1) and the sodium pump (Na + , K + -ATPase). Reduced activity of the transporters by co-expression of DOR resulted from intermolecular interaction with DOR. In addition, EAAC1 became stimulated in response to DOR activation, while GAT1 became inhibited. The Na + , K + -ATPase was not affected by DOR activation, but higher sensitivity to DOR agonist was found in response to sodium pump stimulation. Since endorphins are released in response to acupuncture, the effects described here may contribute to acupuncture-induced pain suppression.

In the second part we will review work on effects of drugs on membranetransporters. In treatment of asthmatic rats by acupuncture cyclophilin A (CyPA) becomes over-expressed. Release of airway smooth muscle contraction by CyPAinduced inhibition of Na + , Ca 2+ exchanger may be the underlying mechanism. As an example for effects of Chinese herb extracts on the transporters described in Sect. 2.1 , we will review the effect of Acorus extract on EAAC1 function showing that a -asarone effectively inhibits EAAC1-mediated current but stimulates glutamate transport. These effects may contribute to reduced excitatory activity supplementary to acupuncture.

Conclusion: The generally accepted effect of acupuncture is pain relief. We suggest that modulation of central nervous synaptic activity may be involved through indirect modulation of the activity of neurotransmitter transporters by endorphins. Membrane transporters may also be the target for drugs of Chinese herbs and for endogenous acupuncture-induced “drugs.”

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Acupuncture Induced Pain Supression Opiod, Glutamate, Amino ButyricAacid, NaK Pump

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