Low-frequency electroacupuncture suppresses zymosan-induced peripheral inflammation via activation of sympathetic post-ganglionic neurons

Hyun Woo Kim, Suk Yun Kang, Seo Yeon Yoon, Dae Hyun Roh, Young Bae Kwon, Ho Jae Han, Hye Jung Lee, Alvin J. Beitz, Jang Hern Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Electroacupuncture (EA) is used to treat a variety of inflammatory diseases; however, the neurophysiological mechanisms underlying EA's anti-inflammatory effect remain unclear. Accumulating evidence suggests that the sympathetic nervous system regulates immunologic and inflammatory responses and thus we hypothesized that this system could be involved in EA's anti-inflammatory effect (EA-AI). The goal of the present study was to evaluate whether the sympathetic nervous system plays a critical role in EA-AI using a mouse air pouch inflammation model. We found that bilateral low-frequency (1 Hz) EA applied to the Zusanli acupoint significantly suppressed the number of zymosan-induced leukocytes migrating into the air pouch. Furthermore, double-labeling immunohistochemical experiments showed that EA stimulation increased Fos expression in choline acetyltransferase (ChAT)-positive sympathetic pre-ganglionic neurons in the intermediolateral region of thoracic spinal cord segments. Chemical sympathetic denervation by intraperitoneal injection of 6-hydroxydopamine (which spares sympathetic adrenal medullary innervation) significantly inhibited EA-AI. In contrast, adrenalectomy did not alter EA-AI. Finally, systemic propranolol administration significantly inhibited EA's anti-inflammatory effect, suggesting that β-adrenoceptors are involved. Collectively, these results suggest that EA produces an anti-inflammatory effect in this mouse air pouch model by activating the sympathetic nervous system leading to the release of catecholamines from post-ganglionic nerve terminals, which act on β-adrenoceptors on immune cells to inhibit their migration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)69-75
Number of pages7
JournalBrain Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 7 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the SRC program of KOSEF (R11-2005-014). In addition, this study was supported by a Research Fund from the Research Institute for Veterinary Science (RIVS) in the College of Veterinary Medicine, Seoul National University.


  • Adrenalectomy
  • Air pouch
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Electroacupuncture
  • Mouse
  • Sympathetic pre-ganglionic neuron

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