Open Access Open Badges Research article

Differential proteomics analysis of the analgesic effect of electroacupuncture intervention in the hippocampus following neuropathic pain in rats

Yong-Hui Gao, Shu-Ping Chen, Jun-Ying Wang, Li-Na Qiao, Fan-Ying Meng, Qiu-Ling Xu and Jun-Ling Liu*

Author affiliations

Department of Physiology, Institute of Acupuncture and Moxibustion, China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, Beijing, 100700, China

For all author emails, please log on.

Citation and License

BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2012, 12:241  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-12-241

Published: 2 December 2012



Evidence is building steadily on the effectiveness of acupuncture therapy in pain relief and repeated acupuncture-induced pain relief is accompanied by improvement of hippocampal neural synaptic plasticity. To further test the cellular and molecular changes underlying analgesic effect of acupuncture, the global change of acupuncture associated protein profiles in the hippocampus under neuropathic pain condition was profiled.


The chronic constrictive injury (CCI) model was established by ligature of the unilateral sciatic nerve in adult Wistar rats. Rats were randomized into normal control (NC) group, CCI group, and CCI with electroacupuncture (EA) stimulation group. EA was applied to bilateral Zusanli (ST36) and Yanglingquan (GB34) in the EA group. Differentially expressed proteins in the hippocampus in the three groups were identified by two-dimensional gel electrophoresis and matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time of flight mass spectrometry. The functional clustering of the identified proteins was analyzed by Mascot software.


After CCI, the thermal pain threshold of the affected hind footpad was decreased and was reversed gradually by 12 sessions of acupuncture treatment. Following EA, there were 19 hippocampal proteins identified with significant changes in expression (>2-fold), which are involved in metabolic, physiological, and cellular processes. The top three canonical pathways identified were “cysteine metabolism”, “valine, leucine, and isoleucine degradation” and “mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling”.


These data suggest that the analgesic effect of EA is mediated by regulation of hippocampal proteins related to amino acid metabolism and activation of the MAPK signaling pathway.

Acupuncture analgesia; Cumulative effect; Hippocampus; Chronic constrictive injury