Objective: Moxibustion, a common therapy in traditional Chinese medicine, has potential benefits for treating decreased ovarian reserve. The present study investigates the protective effect of moxibustion in a rat model of decreased ovarian reserve and explores the possible mechanisms.
Methods: Sixty-four female Sprague-Dawley rats were randomly divided into four groups: control, decreased ovarian reserve, moxibustion and hormone replacement therapy (HRT). The decreased ovarian reserve rat model was established by intragastric administration of 50 mg/kg tripterygium glycoside suspension, once daily for 14 days. Moxibustion and HRT treatments were given from the day Tripterygium glycoside suspension administration was initiated.
The ovarian reserve function was evaluated by monitoring the estrus cycle, morphological changes in ovaries, levels of serum estradiol (E2), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), and anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH), pregnancy rate and embryo numbers. Terminal-deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated nick-end-labeling staining was used to identify ovarian granulosa cell apoptosis, while the protein and mRNA expressions of Bax, B-cell lymphoma-2 (Bcl-2), phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) and protein kinase B (AKT) in ovarian tissues were examined by immunohistochemistry, Western blot and quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction.
Results: Compared with the decreased ovarian reserve group, moxibustion improved the disordered estrous cycle, promoted follicular growth, reduced the number of atresia follicles, increased the concentrations of serum E2and AMH, and decreased serum FSH and LH concentrations. More importantly, the pregnancy rate and embryo numbers in decreased ovarian reserve rats were both upregulated in the moxibustion treatment group, compared to the untreated decreased ovarian reserve model. Further, we found that the moxibustion group had reduced apoptosis of ovarian granulosa cells, increased Bcl-2 expression and reduced expression of Bax. Furthermore, the PI3K/AKT signaling pathway was triggered by the moxibustion treatment.
Conclusion: Moxibustion improved ovarian function and suppressed apoptosis of ovarian granulosa cells in a rat model of decreased ovarian reserve induced by tripterygium glycoside suspension, and the mechanism may involve the PI3K/AKT signaling pathway.