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Effect of electrical stimulation on neural regeneration via the p38-RhoA and ERK1/2-Bcl-2 pathways in spinal cord-injured rats
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Although electrical stimulation is therapeutically applied for neural regeneration in patients, it remains unclear how electrical stimulation exerts its effects at the molecular level on spinal cord injury (SCI). To identify the signaling pathway involved in electrical stimulation improving the function of injured spinal cord, 21 female Sprague-Dawley rats were randomly assigned to three groups: control (no surgical intervention, n = 6), SCI (SCI only, n = 5), and electrical simulation (ESSCI induction followed by ES treatment, n = 10). A complete spinal cord transection was performed at the 10th thoracic level. Electrical stimulation of the injured spinal cord region was applied for 4 hours per day for 7 days. On days 2 and 7 post SCI, the Touch-Test Sensory Evaluators and the Basso-Beattie-Bresnahan locomotor scale were used to evaluate rat sensory and motor function. Somatosensory-evoked potentials of the tibial nerve of a hind paw of the rat were measured to evaluate the electrophysiological function of injured spinal cord. Western blot analysis was performed to measure p38-RhoA and ERK1/2-Bcl-2 pathways related protein levels in the injured spinal cord. Rat sensory and motor functions were similar between SCI and ES groups. Compared with the SCI group, in the ES group, the latencies of the somatosensory-evoked potential of the tibial nerve of rats were significantly shortened, the amplitudes were significantly increased, RhoA protein level was significantly decreased, protein gene product 9.5 expression, ERK1/2, p38, and Bcl-2 protein levels in the spinal cord were significantly increased. These data suggest that ES can promote the recovery of electrophysiological function of the injured spinal cord through regulating p38-RhoA and ERK1/2-Bcl-2 pathway-related protein levels in the injured spinal cord.