Acupuncture and moxibustion have definite clinical effects on treating ulcerative colitis, but their mechanism is still unclear. To investigate the molecular mechanisms, we applied herb-partitioned moxibustion or electroacupuncture at the Tianshu (ST25) points on UC rats and used RNA sequencing to identify molecular consequences.
Male Sprague Dawley (SD) rats were divided into 6 groups randomly: the normal control (NC) group, the control + herb-partitioned moxibustion (NCHM) group, the control + electroacupuncture (NCEA) group, the model ulcerative colitis group, the model + herb-partitioned moxibustion (UCHM) group, and the model + electroacupuncture (UCEA) group. Compared to the UC group, HE staining in the UCHM group and UCEA group indicated that colitis was relieved, the histopathological score and MPO were both significantly reduced, and the serum hs-CRP concentration was decreased significantly.
The results of RNA-seq suggested that, compared to the NC group, 206 upregulated genes and 167 downregulated genes were identified in colon tissues from the ulcerative colitis group; compared to the ulcerative colitis group, the expression levels of some genes were both affected in the UCHM group and the UCEA group (684 differentially expressed genes were identified in the UCHM group, and 1182 differentially expressed genes were identified in the UCEA group).
KEGG signal pathway analysis indicated that the differentially expressed genes in the UCHM group were associated with the JAK-STAT signaling pathway and cell adhesion molecule (CAM); the differentially expressed genes in the UCEA group were associated with the NF-κB signaling pathway, the toll-like receptor signaling pathways, the PI3K-Akt signaling pathway, the MAPK signaling pathway, and the Wnt signaling pathway.
This is the first study to reveal the gene expression characteristics of the anti-inflammatory effect of ulcerative colitis rats from the perspective of acupuncture and moxibustion control, which provide a clue for further investigation into the molecular mechanisms of ulcerative colitis treatment by acupuncture and moxibustion.