Electroacupuncture has been shown previously to alleviate cardiac ischemia-reperfusion injury. Overload training (OT) exercise can result in profound cardiac damage and remodeling. In this study, we aimed to examine whether transcutaneous electrical acupoint stimulation (TEAS), a novel noninvasive and low-risk alternative to electroacupuncture, could counteract short-term OT-induced cardiac remodeling, fibrosis, autophagy, and apoptosis. Sixty rats were randomly divided into eight groups (n = 7 or 8/group): control, regular exercise, OT, OT plus low-, moderate- or high-frequency TEAS preconditioning, OT plus moderate-frequency TEAS postconditioning, or transcutaneous electrical nonacupoint stimulation (TENAS) preconditioning. The cardiac weight index (heart weight/body weight) was determined. Left ventricular morphology was examined by hematoxylin and eosin staining. Cardiac fibrosis and apoptosis were determined by Masson's trichrome and TUNEL staining, respectively. The presence of autophagosomes was observed by transmission electron microcopy. The expressions of autophagic markers (LC3 II/I and Beclin-1) were determined by Western blot. The results showed that 1) OT induced adverse cardiac structure changes but did not affect the cardiac weight index; 2) OT increased cardiac fibrosis and apoptosis and induced autophagosome formation with upregulated LC3 II/I and Beclin-1 expression; 3) TEAS preconditioning effectively alleviated OT-induced cardiac structure changes, fibrosis, apoptosis, and autophagy; 4) TEAS preconditioning produced better protective effects than TEAS postconditioning or TENAS preconditioning. Our results demonstrate that TEAS preconditioning protects the heart from OT-induced cardiac injury/remodeling, probably by inhibition of fibrosis, autophagy, and apoptosis.
- overload training
- transcutaneous electrical acupoint stimulation
- adverse cardiac remodeling
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