To observe the efficacy and mechanism of grain-sized moxibustion at different acupoints in a rat model of ulcerative colitis (UC).
Sprague-Dawley rats were randomly divided into control, UC model, grain-sized moxibustion at a single acupoint (CV 12), grain-sized moxibustion at two acupoints (CV 12 and CV 4), grain-sized moxibustion at three acupoints (CV 12, CV 4, and ST 36), and medication groups (n = 8/group). The UC model was established by enema of trinitrobenzene sulfonic acid. Direct moxibustion was used once a day for 7 d. Disease activity index (DAI) was evaluated before and after the treatment. Morphologic changes of intestinal tissue were observed under an optical microscope. The expression of tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (p38MAPK) in colonic tissue was detected using Western blot, and the levels of occludin and zonula occludens-1 (ZO-1) mRNAs were detected using reverse transcription PCR.
Compared with the control group, the intestinal mucosae were incomplete in the model group, glandular structures were irregular, and submucosae were edematous, hyperemic, and infiltrated with inflammatory cells. The DAI scores and expression of TNF-α and p38MAPK were increased significantly in the model group compared to controls (Ps < 0.01), while the mRNA levels of occludin and ZO-1 were reduced significantly (Ps < 0.01). Compared with the model group, colonic mucosa and the arrangement of glands were complete and regular in the treatment groups. DAI scores and the expression of TNF-α and p38MAPK were reduced significantly in moxibustion groups compared to controls (Ps < 0.01), while the mRNA levels of occludin and ZO-1 were increased significantly (Ps < 0.01). The improvements in the above indices in the three acupoints group and the medication group were superior to those in the single and two acupoints groups (all P < 0.05).
Reduction of TNF-α and p38MAPK and increased expression of occludin and ZO-1 in colonic tissue represent a potential mechanism for improved intestinal mucosal tissue repair with grain-sized moxibustion.