Post-weaning social isolated rodents exhibit pathophysiological changes associated with depression including adrenal axis hyperactivity, gonadal hormone level disturbances, molecular alterations in hippocampus, and immobility behavior in the forced swimming test (FST). Although acupuncture by absorbable thread implantation (acu-catgut, AC) elicits antidepressant-like effects in social isolated rats, AC effects on neuroendocrine and hippocampal molecular alterations have been less characterized.
To investigate the participation of gonadal hormones, corticosterone, and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) hippocampal expression, on the AC antidepressant-like effects in social isolated male rats.
Sprague-Dawley male rats were raised in social isolation (SI) or standard conditions, for 11 weeks. AC (on Baihui (Du20), Yintang (E X-HN3), Shenshu (BL 23), Pishu (BL 20), Ganshu (BL 18), Xinshu (BL 15) and Guanyuan (Ren 4)), or Sham-AC (puncturing of acupoints without embedding the thread), was applied during the last three weeks of isolation period. Rats were evaluated in the FST; hormones plasmatic levels and hippocampal BDNF content were quantified by ELISA and Western blotting, respectively.
Social isolated rats showed more immobility in the FST and had lower testosterone and estradiol levels, higher corticosterone levels, and reduced hippocampal BDNF content than controls. BDNF level in hippocampus inversely correlated to depression-like behavior. AC but not sham-AC normalized immobility behavior, steroid hormone levels, and BDNF content, as in rats raised in a social environment.
AC antidepressant effect could be related to an improvement of hippocampal BDNF protein expression, as well as corticosterone and sex hormones disturbances associated with prolonged exposure to stress caused by social isolation. Present findings have implications for depression treatment in individuals early exposed to stress.

Copyright © 2021. Published by Elsevier Inc.