In a previous study, acupuncture at acupoint HT7 attenuated ethanol withdrawal-induced anxiety-like behavior in rats by normalizing amygdaloid catecholamines. In the present study, the involvement of amygdaloid corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) in the anxiolytic effect of acupuncture was investigated during ethanol withdrawal. Rats were intraperitoneally treated with 3 g /kg/day of ethanol for 28 days, and the CRF mRNA levels in the central nucleus of the amygdala (CEA) were measured by using a RT-PCR analysis 72 hours after the last dose of ethanol. During ethanol withdrawal, the rats were bilaterally treated with acupuncture at acupoints HT7, PC6 or at a non-acupoint (Tail) for one min/day for three days. Also, rats were bilaterally injected with CRF into the CEA five minutes after the third acupuncture treatment, after which followed by the elevated-plus maze (EPM) test and the plasma corticosterone radioimmunoassay (RIA) were administered. The RT-PCR analysis showed a significant increase in the amygdaloid CRF mRNA levels in the ethanol-withdrawn rats compared with both the saline-treated rats and the rats treated with acupuncture at HT7, but neither acupuncture at PC6 nor acupuncture at a non-acupoint significantly inhibited the increased mRNA expression. The EPM test and the RIA also showed that the post-acupuncture infusion of CRF greatly reduced the anxiolytic effect of acupuncture at HT7. These results suggest that during ethanol withdrawal, the anxiolytic effect of acupuncture may be mediated through the modulation of amydaloid CRF during ethanol withdrawal.
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