Acupuncture has shown the preventive effects on depression in rats with chronic unpredictable mild stress (CUMS). However, the mechanisms of acupuncture for preventing depression still need to be explored. In the study, acupuncture was applied to a rat depression model of CUMS, high-mobility group box 1(HMGB1)/toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) and brain-spleen axis were assessed.
Male Sprague Dawley (SD) rats were exposed to CUMS with two stressors per day for 28 days. In the meantime, manual acupuncture (at GV16 and GV23 acupoints, once every other day) and fluoxetine gavage (2.1 mg/kg, 0.21 mg/mL) were administered daily post CUMS stressors. Behavioral tests and biological detection methods were conducted in sequence to evaluate depression-like phenotypes in rats.
The results showed CUMS induced depression-like behaviors, hyper-activation of HMGB1/TLR4 signaling pathway, elevated inflammation in amygdala and peripheral blood, and hyperactivation of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. These changes could be prevented and reversed by acupuncture to varying extents.
Acupuncture prevented and ameliorated depression-like symptoms induced by CUMS, possibly via regulating inflammation through brain-spleen axis mediated by HMGB1/TLR4 signaling pathway and HPA axis regulation.

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