In rats with dihydrotestosterone (DHT)-induced polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), repeated low-frequency electrical stimulation of acupuncture needles restores whole-body insulin sensitivity measured by euglycemic hyperinsulinemic clamp. We hypothesized that electrical stimulation causing muscle contractions and manual stimulation causing needle sensation have different effects on insulin sensitivity and related signaling pathways in skeletal muscle and adipose tissue, with electrical stimulation being more effective in DHT-induced PCOS rats. From age 70 days, rats received manual or low-frequency electrical stimulation of needles in abdominal and hind limb muscle five times/wk for 4-5 wks; controls were handled but untreated rats. Low-frequency electrical stimulation modified gene expression (decreased Tbc1d1 in soleus, increased Nr4a3 in mesenteric fat) and protein expression (increased pAS160/AS160, Nr4a3 and decreased GLUT4) by western blot and increased GLUT4 expression by immunohistochemistry in soleus muscle; glucose clearance during oral glucose tolerance tests was unaffected. Manual stimulation led to faster glucose clearance and modified mainly gene expression in mesenteric adipose tissue (increased Nr4a3, Mapk3/Erk, Adcy3, Gsk3b), but not protein expression to the same extent; however, Nr4a3 was reduced in soleus muscle. The novel finding is that electrical and manual muscle stimulation affect glucose homeostasis in DHT-induced PCOS rats through different mechanisms. Repeated electrical stimulation regulated key functional molecular pathways important for insulin sensitivity in soleus muscle and mesenteric adipose tissue to a larger extent than manual stimulation. Manual stimulation improved whole-body glucose tolerance, an effect not observed after electrical stimulation, but did not affect molecular signaling pathways to the same extent as electrical stimulation. Although more functional signaling pathways related to insulin sensitivity were affected by electrical stimulation, our findings suggest that manual stimulation of acupuncture needles has a greater effect on glucose tolerance. The underlying mechanism of the differential effects of the intermittent manual and the continuous electrical stimulation remains to be elucidated.
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