The previous study showed that the cardiac arrhythmias induced by myocardial ischemia and reperfusion were attenuated by the pretreatment of acupuncture; however, the related mechanism is not understood. The present study was therefore designed to determine whether intracellular Ca2+ ([Ca2+]i) and connexin 43 (Cx43) are involved in the mediation of the anti-arrhythmic effect of electro-acupuncture (EA) pretreatment in the rats subjected to simulative global ischemia and reperfusion (SGIR).
SGIR was made in the isolated heart by a low flow perfusion followed by a flow restoration. Four groups of animals are involved in the present study, including normal control group, SGIR group, EA group and EA plus 18 beta-glycyrrhetinic acid (EAG) group. For EA pretreatment, bilateral Neiguan acupoints (PC6) of the rats were stimulated for 30 min once a day in 3 consecutive days. Cx43 antagonist was given to the rats in EAG group 30 minutes before the EA pretreatment. The resting [Ca2+]i concentration, calcium oscillation, the contents of total Cx43 and non-phosphrylated Cx43 and arrhythmia score were compared among different groups.
In EA group, the arrhythmic score, the resting [Ca2+]i concentration and the number of [Ca2+]i oscillations were all significantly less than those in SGIR group (all P < 0.05), and interestingly, after EA pretreatment, the contents of nonphosphated Cx43 in the EA group were significantly lower than that in SGIR group respectively (P < 0.05). However, when the rats were treated with Cx43 antagonist prior to the EA pretreatment, the protection effects induced by EA pretreatment were reversed.
The results showed that EA pretreatment could produce anti-arrhythmic effect in the rats subjected to SGIR. The anti-arrhythmic effect of EA pretreatment may be due at least partially to the inhibition of SGIR-induced calcium overload and [Ca2+]i oscillations, reduction of non-phosphorylated Cx43 and the enhancement of the corresponding phosphorylated Cx43 in the cardiac cells.
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The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12906-015-0521-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.